IN the sixteenth century, that glorious birth time of a new spirit, Ulrich von Hutten, the valiant knight of the Reformation, cried, “ Die Geister erwachen, es ist eine Lust zu leben ! ” We who are alive to the questions of our own time may well echo this shout of Hutten, “The minds are waking up, it is a joy to live ! ”
That a German should have uttered these words, so full of the exultation of conscious intellectual life, is not, I fear, without its significance. There is more reason for rejoicing in the waking up of the conservative German mind than there might be in the spiritual levee of other nations. When Germany sleeps she sleeps profoundly, — as she does all other things, and is hard to rouse ; but once risen she is emphatically awake, and her pleasure in life and motion is so much the keener for her long slumber.
In the literature and art of Germany, the sleep preceding the recent awakening was deep and sound. It was a sleep under a heavy feather bed of dry research and empty formalism, of the conventional, the doctrinal, the theoretical, in life and art; and the nightmares torturing the sleepers all the while were the more aggressive enemies of all true art, — militarism, capitalism, collectivism.
By and by the morning song of Wagner’s music, bringing the breeze of the ocean with it and telling of the joy and pain of living, begins to buzz in the ears of the slumbering and to stir new activities in their souls. When at last the trumpet sounds from afar, — from France, Norway, Russia,—Germany starts up, and, dazed by the new light streaming in from all sides, does what she generally does in such waking times ; that is, she at first blindly follows the foreign leaders in battling against her enemies of the night and in looking for a new spiritual land, until at last she finds her own way and builds her own intellectual strongholds or her castles in Spain.
These foreign leaders to whom Young Germany owes her new impetus in the way of literary productions are the great men with whose works every student of literature is more or less familiar : it is Zola who, inspired by a French scientist, holds that the experimental methods used in natural science should be employed in poetic art; it is Taine, the French historian, who, a Darwinian like Zola, explains the individual and his tendencies as a result of his milieu ; it is Ibsen, the Norwegian critic of society, who, in his dramas, treats of new psychological and social problems; and it is Tolstoi, who, in this eminently material modern world, advocates the simple teachings of the Gospel. Other powerful influences are the spread of ideas fostered by the development of the natural sciences, — of psychology, of modern philosophy with its decided leaning toward a deterministic view of the universe, and, above all, the evolution of the social question.
These are, in the main, the influences and impressions under which Young Germany has shaken off the dull sloth of old prejudices and has spread her wings for a new flight. How high, or how low, and how far she will fly, nobody knows. Meanwhile the sensation of quick motion, of daring adventure in unexplored regions, is a delicious one for all those who are alive to it, especially now that the first hoarse battle cry of “ revolution, overthrow, destruction,” and the hot breath of passion have passed into a more peaceful, more artistic, and therefore more constructive expression of life.
Among the men of genius who within the last decade or two have agitated and charmed the literary world of Germany, three stand out most prominently. One is Friedrich Nietzsche, in whose veins, as has been said, flows the reddest blood of our age — the most tragic character in the history of the modern mind. Over him, the poet, musician, and philosopher, our fin-de-siècle floods of skepticism and mysticism have thrown such mighty waves, that the vessel of his mind has been wrecked.
The other two are Hermann Sudermann, the novelist and dramatist, and Gerhart Hauptmann, the dramatist. These two are often mentioned together, not because they are so much alike, but rather because they present such interesting and striking contrasts. Where Sudermann is subjective, satirical, brilliant in his diction, trying not so much to reproduce life as to produce an effect or to work out an idea, Hauptmann shows himself more the quiet observer of nature and the human soul, the artist by the grace of God, whose charm is the simplicity, the self-expression, in all he produces. Sudermann, who, apparently, feels the greatness of Hauptmann weigh upon him somewhat heavily, has tried, but with indifferent success, to work out Hauptmannian motives in his last work, The Three Herons’ Feathers and in his St. John the Baptist.
I shall never forget the circumstances of my first acquaintance with the name of Hauptmann. It was at a family dinner party given at my German home in the summer of 1889, the year when Hauptmann’s first drama, Vor Sonnenaufgang (Before Sunrise), was to find its way on the stage. We had finished our dinner, and had sat down for a cosy chat over a glass of wine in the parlor, when some unlucky person pronounced the fatal name of Hauptmann. At the mention of this name the atmosphere at once became charged with an indefinable something which caused even the quiet elderly gentleman in the company to prick up his ears and straighten himself as if he were ready for a battle. The one friend and admirer of Hauptmann’s in the party — a young man who afterward developed into one of the finest interpreters of Hauptmann’s characters on the stage — sang a hymn of praise to the poet, but thunderbolt phrases, like “ degradation of art,” “ accumulation of dirt,” “apotheosis of the vulgar,” etc., were soon falling thick and fast on his head. Finally everybody present was vibrating so intensely with the passionate feeling for or against the young poet, that the cosy chat no doubt would have ended fatally if the young enthusiast had not suddenly left the room to get cooled off.
I learned afterwards that this little family scene had been almost a miniature copy of the battle fought for and against Hauptmann by the excited audience at the representation of his first drama at Berlin in October, 1889. Since a work of such uncompromising character as Before Sunrise would not have been produced at any of the subsidized theatres in Germany, it was lucky for Hauptmann that just at the time when his drama was finished an association known as the “Freie Bühne ” (Free Stage) had been formed, whose purpose it was to encourage the growth of the new literature by readings, recitals, representations, and publications. The founder of this association was Dr. Otto Brahm, an eminent literary critic, who is now at the head of what is probably the finest stage in Germany, the Deutsche Theater, in Berlin. The organ of their publications was the Freie Bühne, now called the Neue Deutsche Rundschau. Through the representation of Ibsen’s Ghosts, in 1889, this association had already become the centre of literary and artistic interests, and now it was daring enough to arrange a performance of so scandalous a piece as Hauptmann’s Vor Sonnenaufgang had been pronounced to be.
The result of the tumult accompanying its first representation was that the quiet young poet became at once a most notorious character, “ torn by the love and hatred of the parties.” Among the few wise and great men who appreciated the genius apparent in this production was Theodor Fontane, the late novelist, whose account of the impression which the man Hauptmann made on him may stand here as an introduction to his personality.
He says : “ Instead of a bearded, sunburnt, broad-shouldered fellow, with a slouch hat and a coat àla Jäger as one w ould have imagined the poet, there appeared a tall, slender, blond young man, whose coat and manners were most irreproachable. He bowed to me with a graceful simplicity, the charm of which, I am sure, even his worst enemies could not resist. There might be those, it is true, who, out of this very lack of pretense in his appearance, would forge new weapons against him, and quote with grim satisfaction the statement with which a learned doctor begins his report on the psychology of criminals, ‘ My murderers all looked like young girls.’ ”
Looking now, furtively, at our young murderer’s first delictum notorium, that is, at the first naturalistic drama of the Germans in print, we find that in its very appearance it stands in sharp contrast to the classical drama, its aristocratic, stately, and formal cousin. It is not a bit aristocratic ; on the contrary, it is a full-fledged democrat. It proudly calls itself “ social drama ” on the title-page. “ Persons ” or “ Characters ” of old definition here appear as “ Handelnde Menschen,” that is, men and women in action. And these do not use a language specially prepared for the edification of the reader or spectator, but they talk exactly as they would were they not on the stage but off, — never expressing themselves in monologues or “ asides,” and using provincial expressions, dialect, exclamations, broken sentences, as freely as they would in common life. And just as in daily intercourse with people you notice a good many points about their personal appearance and their surroundings, so here you are made familiar with these items at the outset by means of ample descriptions, and even by plans drawn for greater clearness of vision.
The outer physiognomy of the changeling — the first product of German naturalistic art — certainly is very commonplace and homely. Turning to the soul, the subject-matter, we find here, too, the atmosphere of every-day life.
The story is briefly this: Loth, a socialist, a man of badges, pledges, and principles, comes to a mining district near Berlin to study the condition of the miners. At the house of his former college friend Hofman, he meets his friend’s sister-in-law, Helen, a pure and lovely flower rooted in the foul soil of an infested home. She is the youngest daughter of a peasant, who, after suddenly becoming rich through the opening of a mine on his land, had, like all his neighbors, taken to drinking, and at the opening of the drama is degenerated into a mere beast. The young people fall in love with each other, but when Loth hears that Helen’s father is a drunkard and that her sister has inherited this vice, he leaves Helen, sacrificing the splendid creature for a future hypothetical race of young Loths. Helen then despairs of life and kills herself.
The milieu into which the character of Helen — who herself has been brought up away from home — is set is appalling, reminding us somewhat of Ibsen’s Ghosts and of Tolstoi’s Power of Darkness. The father of Helen is a confessed drunkard; the stepmother, vulgar and coarse to the core, not only drinks, but has a criminal intimacy with a rich young peasant, Helen’s intended husband ; the married sister has inherited her father’s vice and brings forth children with the stamp of alcoholism upon them ; the brother-in-law, for the love of money and good living, has married Helen’s sister, and, under the guise of brotherly affection, makes love to the guileless Helen. The fitting background to all these separate individuals is a class of peasants who, like Helen’s father, spend their unearned riches in drinking and carousing, in luxury and moral filth. Still farther back, in a shadowy distance, we are made to feel the ghastly presence of a whole army of ragged black figures with hungry eyes, bowed necks, and clinched fists; they are the miners who at once call up the world of Zola’s Germinal and of Hauptmann’s own Weavers. Thus the subject is gloomy and brutal enough to satisfy the Devil himself, and we should recoil from it with horror, and should, moreover, deplore the over - insistence upon the ethical motive, if Hauptmann’s art did not make us forget all these shortcomings.
One of the relieving qualities of this apparently hopelessly pessimistic piece of naturalism is the idealism of the poet. It seems to creep out almost against his will. Although we are made to feel that there is no hope for the salvation of this rotten race of idle peasants, we are led to believe, on the other hand, that the human race as a whole is progressing, that the social question has become one of vital interest to men of education like Loth and the Doctor, that the workingmen will with their help gain what the tiers étât of the French Revolution already possesses — their humanity.
And the poet and artist Hauptmann throughout this drama of his makes us feel every now and then that there is a world beyond this vale of misery and brutality, — a world of beauty and purity in nature as well as in human life. As an illustration I take the opening scene of Act II. as described by the poet.
“ Farmyard. About four o’clock in the morning. The windows of the inn near by are bright with light. Through the gateway the gray dawn is seen which gradually develops into a dark red and finally into clear daylight. Under the gateway, on the ground, sits an old laborer sharpening his scythe. When the curtain rises one sees scarcely more than his silhouette against the gray morning sky, and for several minutes one hears but the regular, monotonous beats of the hammer on the anvil. Then follows the solemn stillness of the morning, interrupted by the shouts of the guests leaving the inn, the door of which is finally closed with a bang. The lights are extinguished. Barking of dogs at a distance, crowing of cocks all around.”
What we have to admire in the art of even the young Hauptmann, and what distinguishes his work from all its naturalistic predecessors, is not only the energy and determination with which he draws his artistic consequences regardless of weak constitutions among his hearers, but is above all the wonderful power of characterization. There is a warm flood of life pulsing in all his men and women, each of whom seems to live his own life rather than to exist for the sake of the drama. The characters in Before Sunrise, from the heroine down to the peasant maid, from the idealist Loth to the drunken beast of a father, — all show that a master hand has created them.
When one reads the drama one can easily understand the enthusiasm it aroused in Berlin. The people must have felt dimly that, in spite of its shortcomings, it offered a new revelation of art; that in it new elements of the commonplace and of ugliness had again been conquered by art and lifted into the realm of the beautiful.
Hauptmann’s next two plays, Das Friedensfest (Festival of Peace) and Einsame Menschen (Lonely Lives), take us from the open air of Before Sunrise, from its fields with the smell of earth on them, into the close atmosphere of a house, or, rather, of a room, the gathering place of a family, in which the souls rub hard against one another as well as against contradictory elements in themselves. The characters of these dramas present the finest, although rather pessimistic, studies of our fin-de-siècle humanity, with a touch of the pathological in them. This element is especially to be noticed in the Friedensfest, where a whole family, laboring under the curse of an ill-advised match between father and mother, is finally being disintegrated.
From the purely individual and psychological problems treated in these two dramas, Hauptmann in his next work again returns to the social question, one phase of which he presents to us here with a power almost unparalleled in the social literature of our century.
The scene of this drama is in the Prussian province of Silesia, near Hauptmann’s home ; and I may remark here that Hauptmann never chooses surroundings for his characters with which he himself is not familiar. The rugged Silesian dialect appears every now and then in Hauptmann’s dramas, but he has made us associate it most vividly with the tragic bit of humanity that has grown on Silesian soil, — I mean with the weavers. Their suffering and rebellion, the gloomiest chapter in the social history of his province, form the subject of Hauptmann’s drama, and The Weavers is its title.
We like to think, although the work was not wholly shaped and inspired by the fact, that the blood of these unfortunates flows in the poet’s own veins. His own father was a well-to-do hotelkeeper, but his grandfather and his greatgrandfather had been weavers, and it is in memory of the family tradition that he dedicates this work to his father.
He had made minute historical studies on the subject treated here, and in one of his sources of information, a book published in 1885 by the historian Zimmermann, we find a passage which gives the general situation and background of the play. After describing the distressing condition of the weavers in the middle of this century, Dr. Zimmermann concludes: “ At last, with the courage of despair, they openly rebelled against their employers. Wild songs were heard in the streets, stones were thrown into the windows of the rich, and the house of one of the employers was demolished. The soldiers sent by the government to establish order were furiously resisted, and many among the mad crowd of unarmed wretches were killed, others wounded. The courage of the weavers died away as suddenly as it had been kindled, and patiently they returned into their old misery.”
This is the raw historical material out of which Hauptmann shaped his work of art, — and it is to be noticed, by the way, that it bears a curious resemblance to the events depicted in Zola’s powerful novel Germinal.
There is no hero in this drama of Hauptmann’s, at least not a hero in the conventional sense, and this was the cause of much perturbation in the minds of the critics until they thought of making “want” take that place. But the hero is something more concrete than this; it is, as Schlenther remarks, “ this whole struggling race of weavers, whose haggard faces with looks bent on their common distress, are gathered here as it were into one gigantic composite — the type of the hungry weaver-face whose shadow is darkening the whole land.” In it we recognize not only the weavers of fifty years ago, but the entire race of workingmen victimized by the great monster of capitalism. For the historical facts relating to the rebellion of the weavers are only the vessel into which the poet has poured the very lifeblood of our own times, which is one of the reasons why this drama takes hold of us with almost more than elemental force.
Here, too, the art of Hauptmann as the creator of this living Gorgon-head of our time is supreme, in characterization as well as in the giving of the atmosphere. There is no painting black or painting white, no trace of hatred or partial love in the poet. With the justice almost of fate he has distributed light and shade in all his finely chiseled men and women, so that we feel that if the slaves should suddenly become the masters, there would be enough among them who would act exactly as their oppressors do now.
Nevertheless, our sympathies are with the weavers as the conscience of the time is with them : we groan and beg, hope and despair, pray and curse, humble ourselves and strike with them, and by the time that the Blutgericht, the rough and spirited chorus of despair and revenge is sung, we are ready to join in with them and work the weight of our century off our souls with the cry : —
Far worse than inquisition,
Where judgment is a damning lie
To send us to perdition.
Within this hall of horror.
Here groans of anguish testify
As witness of his terror.
You demons proud and clever
That drain a poor man’s life and blood —
A curse on you forever !
The drama has been criticised for its pessimism because, in spite of the final victory of the weavers over the soldiers, we feel that their struggle will continue and that they individually will be crushed. But is not just this a sad truth of history, the realist Hauptmann would ask, that, in order to accomplish what we call “ progress ” many individuals have to be sacrificed at each step ?
There are, however, reconciling if not optimistic elements in the drama, and these may be found not only in the characters of the individual weavers themselves, — in their courage, loyalty, sense of justice, — but also in the very fact that their conditions are unendurable. We feel that they cannot last, and we are made to trust in help from the world outside. We know now, and Hauptmann knew when he wrote his drama, that the conditions have been changed for the better ; that where formerly the poor hovels of the weavers were seen, large, well-organized factories have been built. Yes, that particular kind of misery has ceased, but will misery, can misery itself ever cease ? This doubt is the gray shadow that, rising out of Hauptmann’s drama, envelops the souls of his readers with the sad consciousness of the fallacy of human nature and of the ever present pathos of human life.
Judging Hauptmann from The Weavers and his earlier dramas, we should say that there was an almost morbidly ethical vein in him, and that his genius was decidedly inclined toward the tragic. But our poet is a man of surprises. In each new work he unfolds some new flower of his rich and versatile mind. In the two comedies which he created, for recreation as it were, after his Weavers, he shows us that humor and wit, elements which have a somewhat protoplasmic existence in his first dramas, are as much his elements as the ethical and the tragic. Both Professor Crumpton as well as the Beaver-Coat are little masterpieces of dramatic character study ; one giving the ups and downs of an old painter who has drowned his creative powers in alcohol, but who has kept the manners and idiosyncrasies of genius ; the other comedy acquainting us with the doings of a delicious piece of humanity, — a Berlin washerwoman who manages to fool all the world, and especially a wise Prussian government official, by her honest looks and talk, while she is flourishing on her profession of a thief.
This last “ trifling ” comedy of thieves, coming from the same pen which had written the soul-shattering drama of social distress, was a sad surprise for the admirers of the poet. But the surprise grew into a state of utter bewilderment when in November, 1893, they saw his next drama, Hannele’s Ascension to Heaven, represented in the walls of the highly respectable and orthodox Berlin Court Theatre. It was clear that this most consistent naturalist had gone over into the camp of the idealists, and even into that of the symbolists. “ The man who had depicted such crudities as drunkenness, nervous prostration, yes, even hunger, — this same man now dared to write a drama in which dreams, fantasies, yes, worst of all, a child’s poetic faith in her Lord Jesus played an important part.” Critics and carpers, friends and foes of the poet had much trouble to set their own minds and that of the public at rest about this conversion of Hauptmann.
Hannele is the apotheosis of a poor orphan child, a girl of finest sensibilities and most poetical fancies, an embodiment, one might say, of Hauptmann’s own tender, poetic soul. Finding life with her brutal stepfather unendurable she tries to drown herself on a cold winter night, but is rescued by a neighbor and brought to the poorhouse, where her beloved schoolmaster, a doctor, and a Sister of Charity attend her. Her wasted frame cannot stand the shock of this night’s experience, and soon after she is put to bed she loses consciousness. Then the shapes of her feverish fancies rise before us : the drunken stepfather comes and bullies her, her mother brings comfort from heaven, and the dark angel of death slowly approaches and touches her. She is now dressed in shining silk garments and dainty silk slippers which the village tailor has brought for “ Princess Hannele,” and then she is laid in a beautiful glass coffin. Soon the villagers, the school children with their schoolmaster, and the people in the poorhouse all come to see the dead Hannele. At last a stranger enters. He has the features of the dear schoolmaster, but he is really the Lord Jesus. Saying, “ The maiden is not dead, but sleepeth. Johanna Mattern, rise,” he takes her by the hand and walks with her heavenward while a multitude of angels follow in their train. After this the glory vanishes, we are in the poorhouse again, and see the doctor bend over the bed of Hannele. “ Dead ? ” the Sister of Charity asks, and the doctor sadly nods, “ Dead.”
In this strangely beautiful dream poem the power of the poet to blend the actual with the visionary hypnotizes us to such a degree that we hardly know where reality ceases and the dream begins. This same effect, only in a more marked degree, is produced by Hauptmann’s next drama Die Versunkene Glocke (The Sunken Bell). Here his power of visualizing dreams and fancies calls up the whole world of German folklore to our vision. The Sunken Bell is a fairy story pure and — well, it is not so very simple, but it is a fairy tale, nevertheless, and here it is : —
Once upon a time there was a master bell founder, a good man and a great artist. And this was his misfortune. For it made him dissatisfied with living in the valleys of life and with creating works for the valley. So once he founded a bell for the heights, — one that was to proclaim the dominion of the Christian God in the mountain realm of the heathen nature-spirits. It was declared to be the greatest of works that Master Heinrich ever did, but he had his silent misgivings about it. And when the bell, while being dragged to the mountain church, fell into the lake, Heinrich, in despair, threw himself down the precipice also. He was rescued, but did not want to live and work any longer. For had he not after his fall seen the bewitching face and heard the wonderful voice of Rautendelein of the woods ? And did he not know, alas, that he could never reproduce that voice in his bells? Rautendelein, however, came herself and cured him, and leaving his family, his friends, and his duties in the valley, he followed his new love to her breezy mountain home. Here he worked with new inspiration and exultant vigor at the realization of his ideal work of art — a temple with a chime of bells, the sound of which was to drown the voice of all the church bells in the land and call together the multitudes for the worship of their mother, the sun. Soon, however, his creative faculties began to fail. Nature herself — the malicious wood sprite and the wise Nickelmann — conspired against him ; his enemies from the valleys stormed his workshop, and visions rose before him of his forsaken wife and children. At last the sound of his sunken bell struck by the bony fingers of his dead wife rang up from the lake like the angry voice of the thunder god. Overwhelmed with grief, repentance, and longing, Heinrich left Rautendelein and rushed to the deep. But there was no peace for him in the valleys, either. A dying man, he climbed again to the heights to look once more on Rautendelein. With her kiss on his brow he died, while behind the mountain summits there rose a new day.
There is a wonderful charm about the very atmosphere pervading this work of Hauptmann’s, — a breath of Nature in her budding days as well as in her summer prime, with a sad suggestion, too, of coming death and decay. When, on a warm afternoon in late summer, we are lying on the ground somewhere deep in the woods and looking up into the treetops we see the sun shedding his last rays of golden red, and feel the heart throbs of mother earth in the flowers about us and in the myriads of insects flying, crawling, buzzing around us, — then golden-haired Rautendelein and the dancing fairies, brook-voiced Nickelmann and the wood sprite will come to us: we shall greet them as old acquaintances, and revel in their grace and beauty, in their naturalness and freshness, yes, even let the coarse jokes of the wood sprite, who carries with him an earthy odor of decay, pass with a smile.
At such moments we shall better understand and sympathize with the longing of Heinrich the artist for a closer union with this world of natural freedom, grace, and beauty, than the conventional, dogmatic, oppressing atmosphere of the valleys could give him. We shall dimly see his conception of highest art as an art which, like Nature herself, lulls one, and at the same time invigorates and draws one onward above all the petty cares and sorrows of human life. It is a confession that Hauptmann makes to us in this fairy tale, — a confession that he, too, has tried to rise to the heights of great and soul-delivering art, but has failed. He, too, Hauptmann,had founded a bell on which for years he had spent all his best workmanship, and when it came to be tried the poet founder saw it was not fit for the heights.
It must have been a great grief and a sad revelation to the poet, when, at the first, which was also the last, representation of his great historical drama of the Reformation, Florian Geyer, he saw and felt that it was a failure. And he must have asked himself then, Why is it a failure ? Have I stayed too long in the narrow valleys of earthly misery, of human shortcomings, that I have lost the ability to reach the summits of my new ideals ? Is it true, that to attain the height of great art I must first harden myself to become the great Ubermensch, the over-man, of whom Nietzsche dreams in his Zarathustra, who stands beyond good and evil ? Must I harden myself against the demands of my social conscience, against my own heart which is throbbing with compassion for the poor, oppressed, straying fellow men about me ?
The bell founder, Heinrich, died broken-hearted ; but our poet, with his vision of a new art and the humble confession of his inability to give shape to his ideal, went down into the valley again, to his own simple folk in Silesia, and there created his Fuhrmann Henschel (Driver Henschel).
The plot of this drama of fate, a work of the most carefully wrought composition, is the simplest possible, the stress being laid, as is usual with the poet, on character rather than on incident. Driver Henschel, a good, honest, simple-minded man, is wrongfully suspected by his sick wife of paying undue attention to their stalwart young servant Hanna. In order to appease the fretting woman, the good-natured giant half jokingly promises that, if his wife should die, he will not marry Hanna.
But when the good housewife has left her bewildered husband in the chill of loneliness and in the maze of household cares, Henschel, urged by his anxious friends to marry again, chooses Hanna, because she, after his wife’s death, has taken excellent care of his house and child. This clever, but hard and sensual woman who, as the people whisper to one another, has hurried Henschel’s wife and baby to their graves, keeps up her vicious connections after her marriage. When the shame that Hanna has brought on his honest name is revealed, and the vague suspicions, too, reach his ears, the poor man staggers under the blow. Accusing no one save himself, but with dazed wondering how he really could have helped matters, he, out of this labyrinth of evil snares, takes refuge in suicide.
Fuhrmann Henschel is still naturalistic art, that is, art of the lowlands, but it is the crown of it, a work of great simplicity, strength, and pathos, tempered with the virtue of moderation, purity, and self-control that great spiritual experiences give.
And is this the end of Hauptmann ? No, let us hope that it is just the beginning ! He is only thirty-seven years old, and great things may yet be accomplished by him. Perhaps, now that in Fuhrmann Henschel he has touched his Silesian mother earth again, he will, like Antæus of old, be able to take a new flight, a flight into the land of idealism in thought and art, the land of promise and longing for many of our great contemporaries, but most emphatically for Nietzsche and Hauptmann, the two men who represent the climax of the nineteenth-century spiritual life in Germany.
Nietzsche has given his message of a new age coming, with a harder, stronger, finer race of men, in his mystical Zarathustra.
Hauptmann has laid down the confession of his artistic aspirations in his Sunken Bell. Both men keenly suffer from life, — but in what different ways!
Nietzsche, the poet philosopher, the descendant of aristocrats and himself a full-fledged aristocrat, is one of the greatest sufferers from this world of the “ Vielzuvielen,” the “ many-too-many,” whom he hates, yet cannot shake off, because he, more perhaps than the rest of us, has what he calls the disease of Christian Ethics in his blood. This disease of self-renunciation seen in the sacrifice of the noble for the ignoble, of the strong for the weak, of the healthy for the sick, Nietzsche denounces as the curse of civilized humanity, because it disables mankind to produce the Übermensch. One of the first teachings, therefore, of Zarathustra, is : " Spare not your neighbor, the great love for the coming race demands it. The neighbor is something that must be overcome.”
And at the side of Nietzsche as the child of the same generation put Hauptmann, the poet, the democrat, the strong descendant of a sturdy race of artisans, whose very spring of action is that altruism denounced by Nietzsche, that loving compassion with the victims of our civilization : the poor, the oppressed, the vicious, the lonely, the helpless, the nervously overwrought. All of these are clasped in the arms of his tender, loving nature ; they all are planted on the rich soil of his artist’s soul, where they find new life, and blossom anew, to bear fruit for the coming race of men.
In Nietzsche we have the cold, crisp current of Pagan individualism ; in Hauptmann the warm, expanding flood of Christian Socialism. Both are the great arteries of our time. Will the twentieth century unite these in one mighty stream, and give us a new Shakespeare or a new Goethe ?