CELT document E880000-003

The German and Gallic Muses

Patrick Augustine Sheehan

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The German and Gallic Muses

A few months ago we had to listen with all patience and seeming unconcern to the apotheosis from press and platform of one, who had passed more than the years usually allotted to the span of human life; and who, after various vicissitudes of pain and strife, terror and triumph, had come to be regarded as the great national poet of France, and the prophet of that recent development of man's eccentricity—the religion of humanity. Poet and essayist, novelist and historian, he left no department of letters untried; and the praises of him were so persistent, and his personality of such influence in these latter days, that even those who were not of his household or country came to join in the universal chorus of unstinted worship, and unconditional admiration. “Foremost man of this our century,” “Apostle of Freedom and Humanity,” the “latest seer vouchsafed to us,” and in lower tones, “the greatest lyric poet of France and the world,” “the best dramatic novelist of our century”—this is the chime that has been swinging its adulations in our ears, and whose music is rather marred by its monotony.

But even when the glory of the man had reached its height, when his mortal elements were carried in funeral procession, and the steps of the sacred temple which was to be his mausoleum, were piled with floral tributes from France and the world, a question would force itself upon us. Outside the ranks of newspaper critics, a few dreamy enthusiasts in his own country, and an exceedingly limited number of poetasters and littérateurs in these islands, how many are  p.43 there who have read Victor Hugo's poems? to how many are his verses familiar? who can quote one single line from them? who can even tell the titles of his works? In the whole wide realm of English literature, he appears to have had but one admirer and advocate, an eccentric but strong genius whose rapturous enthusiasm, however, would scarcely have compensated the vain dead poet for the studied indifference of the English literary world. Master of the English language as he undoubtedly is, Swinburne can scarcely find words to express his admiration of Victor Hugo. He calls him—

  1. "The mightiest soul
    That came forth singing ever in men's ears,
    Of all souls with us, and thro' all these years,
    Rings yet the lordliest, waxen yet more strong."
And again,
  1. That one, whose name gives glory
    One man, whose life makes light.
    Our lord, our light, our master,
    Whose word sums up all song."

And so on through the whole litany of adulation. But what do the masses of the people think? Is Hugo even in his own France as familiar to educated people, as Tennyson is in these islands? Will literary men in his own country form learned societies to explain and apply the meaning of his verses, like the Shaksperean societies that are numberless amongst ourselves? Will there be a club in Paris, half a century after his death, to meet every year in worship of him, as the admirers of Wordsworth do in London? Will his sentences be quoted in books and speeches, to strengthen them by apposite illustration, or adorn them, so that they shall not easily slip from the memories of men?

But the question takes a wider range. It must have occurred to many readers that French poetry is absolutely unknown beyond the geographical boundaries of the Republic. Since the time of Frederick the Great who patronised Voltaire, and made French literature, manners, language, fashionable amongst the Teutons, there has been a steady decline in the popularity of French poetry amongst educated foreigners; and on the other hand, there has been a steady  p.44 increase of admiration for that wonderful galaxy of thinkers and singers which the Fatherland, to make up for past apathy, has produced. In England, every educated person has acquired, or thinks it necessary to affect, a taste for foreign literature. The wild poet, who saw the fiery snow fall upon the backs of the tormented, who felt the breath of the hurricane that swept round in fierce gusts the sad souls of Paolo and Francesca, who lingered amongst the sealed tombs that held lost souls, and tore bleeding limbs when he touched the branches of the gloomy trees, must be as familiar as Shakspere or Byron to the cultured English intellect. Calderon, too, and Lope de Vega, must be recognised; and even the far off poets of the East, with their strange mythical philosophies, have found honourable places in our magazines, and more than one learned commentator; and above all, German philosophy, German romance, and German poetry must be known, if one desires not to be classed amongst those, who sit in exterior darkness, and have no place in the circles, where familiarity with the works of genius is the only passport of admission. But it is no literary crime to be quite ignorant of French poetry. You may know that Racine and Molière existed, and wrote certain tragedies and comedies, but no one is expected to spend much time on these poets of the past, or to waste midnight oil in seeking to discover or remember their beauties. And so, for one who has heard the names of Alain Chartier or Villon, a hundred have by heart the songs of Schiller and Herder; for one who cares about the Napoleonic songs of Béranger, a hundred admire the glaive-song of Körner.

The study of the causes which have made French poetry a drug in the market, whilst French literature in every other department holds a foremost place amongst its contemporaries in every country in Europe, is a very curious, and perhaps, instructive one. It has been said that the French language is not well adapted to the higher forms of poetry. With its fondness for light dental syllables, 1 the almost total absence of strong guttural sounds, and its numberless particles, whose  p.45 tenuity is not relieved as in Greek and German, with deep sonorous syllables, it remains for ever the language of the drawing-room or cabinet, of pastoral loves and sweet simplicities, but can never be made the vehicle of the stormy outpourings of love or terror, of the stern passion and solemn feeling which the tragic muse demands; nor in lyric poetry can it ever convey the pathos and the tenderness and the sublimity, that belong to the subjects, which in our times poetic geniuses have almost universally adopted. French writers admit this inferiority of their language to those of the ancient classics, and seek every pretext for maintaining that, notwithstanding this weakness French dramatic poetry deserves to take a place on the high level of the immortal works which Greek genius has left to humanity. They hold that the rhythm of their language can never be understood by foreigners; and that, owing to the peculiar possession by French artists of an organic power over the sounds and syllables in poetry, which they call the tonic accent, the full meaning of their great dramatists can be interpreted to an audience in strong, but harmonious rhetoric—melodious, yet as passionate and striking as the harshest threnodies of Æschylus; and that the weakness of the perpetual rhyming, which is so painful to readers of French tragedy, is altogether removed, when by attention to meaning and by gesture, every passionate speech is uttered, accentuated by oratorical inflexion. This, they say, was the secret of the power of Talma, the greatest of French tragedians.

However correct this strong defence may be, the fact remains that for the majority of readers, who are entertained by their poets, not in the auditorium of a theatre, but in the silence of their studies, the French language is absolutely effeminate—we might almost say exasperating, in its inadequacy to express what are often great and splendid ideas. And, unfortunately, the three great tragic poets of France, Corneille, Voltaire, and Racine, have challenged comparison with the masterpieces of antiquity by selecting for treatment, characters, scenes and episodes, that belong to the mythology of Greece and Rome. To any one familiar with Greek tragedy, whose ears have been accustomed to the long rich roll of the Epic hexameter, to the iambics of the Attic stage, and  p.46 to the high heroic style of the chief actors in the immortal dramas of Greece, nothing can appear more paltry and weak than the mock heroics of their modern French imitators. Here for example, is a part of a dialogue between Agamemnon and Achilles, on an occasion of unusual solemnity, when the former had determined to sacrifice his daughter Iphigenia, and Achilles, her betrothed, has just heard the terrible report.

  1. Un bruit assez étrange est venu jusqu'à moi
    Seigneur; je l'ai jugé trop peu digne de foi.
    On dit, et sans horreur, je ne puis le redire,
    Qu'aujourd'hui, par votre ordre Iphigenie expire.
  3. Seigneur, je ne rends point compte de mes desseins,
    Ma fille ignore encore mes ordres souverains,
    Et, quand il sera temps quelle en soit informée,
    Vous apprendrez son sort, j'en instruirai l'armée.
  5. Ah! je sais trop le sort, que vous lui réservez.
  7. Pourquoi le demander, puisque vous le savez. 2

Instead of an excited prologue to a tragedy, this reads like a cautious and diplomatic exchange of question and retort between the clever plenipotentiaries of two rival States. But turn to the Iphigenias of Euripides, or the Iphigenia in Tauris of Goethe, and the vast inferiority of the Gallic to the Greek and German dialects will be apparent. Or take any part of the Iliad, or a single page of Paradise Lost and then hear Voltaire in the only epic poem which France has produced—the Henriade. Here is the opening description of the massacre of St. Bartholomew: —

  1. Cependant tout s'apprête, et l'heure est arrivée
    Qu'au fatal dénoûment la reine a réservée.
    Le signal est donné sans tumulte et sans bruit;
    C'était à la faveur des ombres de la nuit.
    De ce mois malheureux l'inégale courrière
    Semblait cacher d'effroi sa tremblante lumière.
    Coligny languissait dans les bras du repos,
    Et le sommeil trompeur lui versait ses pavots.
    Soudain de mille cris le bruit épouvantable
    Vient arracher ses sens a ce calme agréable.


It is as “moonlight unto sunlight, and as water unto wine.” But the German language, so broad, and deep, and resonant lends itself easily to metrical romance, historical epic, or the stately drama. Very strong, rough elements went to compose it—the dialects of the East Goths who occupied the low alluvial lands of the Danube and the Elbe—and whilst still crude and unformed, Ovid, the earliest poet who wrote in German, discovered its adaptability to Greek and Roman rhythm, and invented the German hexameter, the same metre, in which Wieland and Klopstock wrote their immortal epics. And there cannot be a doubt but that this language is peculiarly fitted for heroic and dramatic poetry. The long compound words, each of which is a metaphor, like the compound Greek adjectives, the preponderance of consonants, sometimes linked and riveted together as if to reduplicate their strength, and the distinct pronunciation of every letter, gives a tone of masculine vigour to the language, which makes it peculiarly the language of the tragedian. But even in softer lyric verses, the words fit in, when used with skill as easily as the liquid Italian. We quote two stanzas from Uhland's Das Schloss am Meer:—

  1. Sahest du oben gehen
    Den König und sein Gemahl?
    Der rothen Mäntel wehen?
    Der goldnen Kronen Strahl?
    Führten sie nicht mit Wonne
    Eine schöne Jungfrau dar
    Herrlich wie eine Sonne
    Strahlend in goldnen Haar?
and these few lines of Mignon's song, which are familiar.
  1. Kennst du das Land? wo die Citronen blühn
    Im dunkeln Laub die Gold-Orangen glühn
    Ein sanfter Wind vom blauen Himmel weht
    Die Myrte still und hoch der Lorbeer steht
    Kennst du es wohl?
    Dahin! Dahin!
    Möcht' ich mit dir, o mein Geliebter, ziehn.

But the distinct inferiority of French to German poetry is rather to be sought in two yet more powerful causes—the configuration of the countries, and their histories, legendary  p.48 or otherwise. It may seem a bold assertion that the poetry of a country takes its tone from its scenery, and that the divine dreams of bards and singers are coloured by associations of mountains and rivers, the level beauties or rich undulations of a landscape, or the many wonders of the sea. Yet, if a poet is above all things a child of nature—if she is his mother, his mistress, his teacher, who keeps her secrets for him alone, and shows him pictures, to which other men are blind, and whispers music which the unfavoured shall not hear, assuredly his writings must bear some strong impress of his fancies, and, according to Nature's teachings, be rich or poor, tame or spirited, the rapt utterance of an oracle that is inspired, or the stammering of a voice, which has never been lifted above the low levels of human knowledge and utterance. Hence, Mount Parnassus was the home of the Muses in the Greek mythology, and from the mystic fountain their clients drew their inspiration; and every poet that has sung since these distant times has walked with Nature first and then with man, to learn the myriad moods in which she strives to captivate and educate her wayward child. True to her teachings was the Irish bard, who returned from the ends of the earth to see once more the “purple mountains of Innisfail,” and if there be any special charm in the works of an artist who is always delightful, it is the sombre tone in which he envelops the mournful chant of In Memoriam, or the twilight atmosphere in which he exhibits the spectral forms of Arthur and his knights.

Now, Nature has been particularly unkind to France. She has given her splendid facilities for commerce and agriculture; but her dowry of broad, tame, fertile plains, unbroken by the barrenness of shaggy mountains, and unrelieved by the desolation of moorland or mere, has never qualified her to be “meet nurse for a poetic child.” 3 Smooth, bare levels, dotted with poplars, arranged with the mathematical precision which Nature detests, and shallow rivers flowing by dull towns, yield not a spot which Melpomene could haunt, and lift the soul of native child or gifted stranger to that mood of inspiration when the spirit of man breaks forth in song. But in Germany everything favours  p.49 the poetic and philosophic spirit. Its broad majestic rivers, castlecrowned, and jewelled with green islets, its giant forests, dark and gloomy, as if still haunted by the spirit of Druidical worship, its mountains, with their brockens and witches, its historic cities, that were swept by the storms of political strife, and rent with the rage of battles, all combine to give a tinge of the weird and supernatural to German poetry, and to eliminate whatever is merely formal, prosaic, or utilitarian. Every mountain has its legend, every forest its grim history, every river its associations; and brooding over all, and colouring legend, history, and association is the dark spirit of Scandinavian mythology. Across the dawn of French poetry we see a gay procession of jongleurs and troubadours daintily dressed, swinging their guitars, and singing of love and flowers and perfumes, “Vous estes belle en bonne foye,” and “Si jamais fust un Paradis en terre.” Across the dawn of German poetry are the dark figures of the scalds, who sang of Thor and Odin, and the mad Beresarks, and the Valkyres, who, forgetting their sex, went out on the battle-field by night, and slew the wounded. The former sang in quaint old Breton, or the half-Spanish French of the south, and the eternal subject in lay, virelay, and rondelay, is the silly nonsense that for ever attaches to purely erotic poetry. The latter sang in rough gutturals 4 of war, and the gods, and the fountains of being, and the origin of men, and the three sisters Urda, Verandi and Skulda, of the twilight, and the windswells, and the old man of the mountain and the old man of the sea. The earliest monuments of Gothic intellect are these rough old rhymes on subjects, which though clothed in uncouth language and darkened in the twilight of mythology must still be considered the beginnings of those modern schools of poetry which have produced masterpieces which will bear to be read or represented by the side of the masterpieces which Greece produced in the zenith of its  p.50 intellectual power. But the love songs of the trouveres and troubadours are the beginnings of an effeminate school which never in its earlier days thought of the philosophy of nature as a subject for poetry, and never in its later days touched that great subject without reducing it to ridicule. And so even to this day we have rondeaux, triolets and huitains with “les parfums,” “les fleurs,” “les oiseaux,” and “le printemps” well sprinkled through them; but not a word that is worth remembering of a past, that may be lingered over with regret, of a present rich in fruitful philosophy, or a future that is fraught with buoyant hopes and cheerful presages for humanity.

But did not the Germans actually adopt not only the versification, but even the subjects of French poetry? True; after the conquests of Charlemagne, a strong imitative spirit grew up in Germany for everything French; and the romances of chivalry which took their rise in Brittany, which celebrated the glories of the Round Table, and the bravery of Charlemagne, and the exploits of Amadis of Gaul, became the ruling subjects of literature not only in Germany, but all over Europe. The Italians had no vernacular poetry prior to the fourteenth century. The earliest of their poems which have come down to us are simply imitations, both in dialect and subject, of the ancient Provençal poets. The Spaniards invited their singers from beyond the Pyrenees. All the early English romances are avowedly taken from Norman sources, and the German romances are simply translations of the fame of Sir Percivale, or the loves of Lancelot of the Lake, or the fate of Sir Tristram. But we cannot say that any works of native Germans, written in this humble, imitative style, deserve to be remembered now. Just as the Italian copyists have passed away, and are forgotten, whilst the figure of Dante, huge, colossal, original, stands enshrined in the Temple of Immortality; and as the Spanish copyists have passed away, and leave Calderon and Lope de Vega, the sole representatives of Spanish and Portuguese art, so the servile imitators of Breton or Provençal romance in Germany have barely recorded of them in musty indices of the Vatican or elsewhere, that they wrote such and such a work in “merrie  p.51 rime,” but that is all the hold they have on the attention of our age to be rescued from absolute oblivion. Even during this dull period, the only works of any importance that have challenged the notice of posterity are the original metrical romances, that have for subject some national or mythological legend derived from purely Gothic sources—such as the expedition of the Ecken, or the Lay of the Nibelungs. In truth, Frankish influence appears to have paralysed every effort of native Germans to establish and consecrate to national purposes a truly original school of poetry. The traditionary ballads of the trouveres had a host of servile imitators, who, when tired of extravaganzas in amatory verse introduced the same silly sentimentality—the same profane and farfetched imagery—the same indelicacy and coarseness into the miracle plays, which during this period, were tolerated over the whole continent of Europe. In fact, Germany had ceased to be a nation, and had become merely a collection of principalities, and German poetry had come to be represented by a few ballad writers, who were welcome in the halls of the feudal barons, but who neither caught inspiration from the people, their history and their traditions, nor, in turn, communicated those passionate feelings to the masses, which in later times stirred them to the deepest depths of their being, and created the high ambition, which has placed Germany foremost amongst the nations in all kinds of intellectual culture. In fact, in Germany as in all other nations, nationality and literature acted and reacted on each other. So long as Germany remained under Frankish influence, political or literary, so long it remained in a condition of intellectual debility. When emancipated from foreign influence, it at once produced masters in every branch of intellectual enterprise. When again it passed under the dominance of Frankish customs, it relapsed into sluggish barrenness. It has been said that it was the Reformation which quickened the intellectual pulse of Germany, and by introducing freedom of opinion, philanthropic liberality, &c., stimulated the minds of men to those contests on religion, science, and the humanities, by which the intellect is always invigorated, and the  p.52 imagination has scope for broad and liberal speculations in every department of human knowledge. But that this is not so, is evidenced by the facts that for 150 years after the Reformation, the countries of Europe, which embraced Protestantism sank back into a condition of almost primitive barbarism; and that long before the Reformation, and in the very centre of Catholicism, a revival of taste for all the arts that can elevate and refine humanity, for the sciences which contribute to man's comfort, and for the literature which broadens and beautifies his mind, had already taken place. “If the three hundred years,” says an English writer 5— “which elapsed between 1500 and 1800, be divided into equal parts, the spirit of the Reformation will be allowed to have been most operative during the first hundred and fifty years. But the diffusion of general welfare and illumination will be found most conspicuous during the last hundred and fifty years. This progress, both of populousness and refinement, resulted chiefly from the increase of wealth; and the increase of wealth resulted chiefly from the extension of commerce, which grew out of the conquest of Hindostan, and the Colonization of America; events independent of the Reformation. If the European territories shaken by this revolution be distinguished into Protestant and Catholic countries, and the respective masses be compared with each other, the Protestant will uniformly be found the more barbarous during the three first half-centuries of the Reformation; as if the victory of the new opinions had occasioned a retrogression of civility. The Catholic provinces seem barely to have retained their anterior refinement; but the Protestant provinces to have receded towards rudeness; and these only began to recover their natural rank, in the competition of national culture, when the religious zeal of their ruling classes began to abate. Valuing thus in gross the effects of the Reformation, it is surely not easy to perceive its merits.” We quote another sentence from the same Protestant author, just to show that the opinion of Carlyle and others, that modern civilisation is directly traceable to the Reformation is not shared by all thinkers. “When it is considered that,  p.53 of the evil, which for one hundred and fifty years accompanied the Reformation along its progress, much inheres in the very nature and essence of the change; that, of the good, which for one hundred and fifty years has been enjoyed in the seats of the Reformation, much might equally have been expected without any alteration at all; and that a purer reformation from the bosom of Italy itself, was probably intercepted by the premature violence of Luther and his followers—surely they may not hastily, or decidedly, be classed among the benefactors of the human race. The northern Reformers made tempests and bloody showers; and now that the sunshine is restored to their fields, they boast of the storm as the cause of the fertility.”

We see therefore that the change in the religious opinions of Germany was not the prelude to the golden epoch of its poetry and literature. That the spirit of independence of foreign influences, and the popularisation of German manners, language, &c., had an immediate and vivifying effect on German genius is evidenced by the fact that it was in the year 1748, the first German grammar was published by Gottsched, 6 and writing in German became popular, and from that year for a long century, Germany produced with a rapidity which astonished herself and the world, a galaxy of poetic and other geniuses, more numerous, and of more transcendent ability than all the modern nations of Europe have together produced. We do not say that she therefore bears the palm of intellectual superiority, or that she is the cradle of the world's greatest men. We do not say that Goethe is a greater poet than Shakspere or Dante, or that Klopstock is equal to Milton. But we do say that in the short space of a single century, and that century bounding the only national life which Germany has enjoyed, it has given to the world a school of poets and philosophers of more unique, original, and varied talent, of higher and more transcendent aims and ideas, and of greater perfection of artistic workmanship, than can be found on the rolls of honour of any other nation. Here are names, every one of which is mentioned with enthusiasm, not only at home, but in every academy and university in  p.54 Europe, Goethe, Schiller, Herder, Werner, Heine, Novalis, Bürger, Freiligrath, Klopstock, Körner, Lessing, Tieck, Uhland, Wieland, Hoffmann, &c., &c., of whom Carlyle says: “We have no hesitation in stating, that we see in certain of the best German poets, and those, too, of our own time, something which associates them, remotely or nearly we say not, but which does associate them with the Masters of Art, the Saints of Poetry, long since departed, and as we thought, without successors, from the earth, but canonised in the hearts of all generations, and yet living to all by the memory of what they did and were. Glances we do seem to find of that ethereal glory which looks upon us in its full brightness from the Transfiguration of Raffaelle, from the Tempest of Shakspeare; and, in broken, but still purest, and heartpiercing beams, struggling through the gloom of long ages, from the tragedies of Sophocles, and the weather-worn sculpture of the Parthenon. This is that heavenly spirit which, best seen in the aerial embodiment of poetry, but spreading likewise over all the thoughts and actions of an age, has given us Surreys, Sidneys, Raleighs in court and camp, Cecils in policy, Hookers in divinity, Bacons in philosophy, and Shakspeares and Spensers in song. In affirming that any vestige, however feeble, of this divine spirit is discernible in German poetry, we are aware that we place it above the existing poetry of any other nation.”

We might say in conclusion, that the whole spirit of Germany is in alliance with the lofty ideas and emotions which find their embodiment in poetry: the whole spirit of France is in direct opposition and antipathy. There are two very exquisite passages from two of our most eminent English poets, which clearly exemplify this statement. Robert Browning speaking of subjective poets and taking Shelley as a type, says: “Not what man sees, but what God sees—the ideas of Plato—seeds of creation lying burningly on the Divine Hand—it is towards these that he struggles. Not with the combination of humanity in action, but with the primal elements of humanity he has to do; and he digs where he stands,—preferring to seek them in his own soul as the nearest reflex of that absolute Mind, according to the intentions  p.55 of which he desires to perceive and speak.” To the spiritual, introspective character of German genius, these remarks would admirably apply; and although there appears to have been no correspondence either of imitation or praise between Shelley and his German contemporaries, he derived his undoubted inspirations from sources to which they had access and recourse, and his poetry, which has long since passed into the region of the deathless classics, has an indisputable affinity with the legendary and lyrical poetry of the Fatherland. For if the German poets were metaphysicians before they broke through forms and sang in clear resonant rhythm emotions and ideas that were unintelligible in mere prose, Shelley, too, had his mind formed on the teachings of Plato, 7 and his immortal verse is but the disburdening of a great philosophical mind, which laboured under the doubts and difficulties of existence to the end. And his vain ineffectual straining after an excellence and beauty, which he ended by declaring it to be visionary and ideal, what is it but that perpetual balancing of reason and fancy, which is so remarkable amongst the German poets, and which is unknown to French versifiers? For these latter, unable to maintain an equipoise between the two great powers of the intellect, decided to dethrone imagination, and deify reason. Whence it is easy to understand that saying of Shelley's: “Rousseau was essentially a poet—the others (meaning Voltaire and his school of sceptics), were mere reasoners.” 8

The other sentence we take from Shelley himself: “Poetry is indeed something divine, it is at once the centre and circumference of all knowledge; it is that which comprehends all science, and that to which all science must be referred. It is the perfect and consummate surface and bloom of all things; it is as the odour and colour of the rose to the texture of the elements which compose it, as the form and splendour of unfaded beauty to the secrets of anatomy and corruption.” 9 It is the brilliant surface then of men and things, and not the hidden mechanism of nature that comes under the domain of poetry; or if the divine art will penetrate beneath the surface and seek to understand secret operations that issue in such  p.56 splendours of form and colour, it is with a view to understand their mystery and meaning, and not to reduce them to the commonplaces of science. Here the analyst and theorist have no place. The subtle essence of poetic thought can no more be sifted and solved than the scent of a rose in summer, or the odours that are wafted from the sea. Its secret charm, which appeals to our highest senses, and gives us some idea of pre-existence as it certainly gives a hope of immortality, is undefinable; and human speech, that is wrought into such mysterious and beautiful texture under its influence, has no power to declare the nature of the spell that enfolds it. And as in the sister art of music, the ethereal harmonies which sway human emotions are altogether beyond the grasp of the geometer, who can tell the exact value of notes and intervals, or the surgeon who knows exactly the physiology of the vocal chords, so poetry in its highest forms is far beyond the reach of critical or analytical intellects, who understand the science of the skeleton, but are blind to the beauty and perfection of the living form. Yet, France has always had a dread of the ideal; and her painters and novelists, her sculptors and poets, have driven realism to extremes. Battle-scenes and historical episodes cover their canvasses; the Morgue and the Salpétrière furnish the heroes and heroines of romance, and their poets have either taken the classic legends, and deprived them of the life and charm they possessed for the ancients, or affected those historical subjects, which even in the hands of Shakspere are only redeemed from dulness by the highest efforts of genius and art. The result is this. The spirit of our age is totally opposed to dry verse, which the soul of poetry never animated. A solitary poet, like Austin Dobson, may try to revive in our magazines some taste for French forms of versification, with comparatively little success, but the unerring instincts of great geniuses like Coleridge and Carlyle force them to direct the full searching light of intellect and taste on German poems and German mysticism, with the result that a radiance is reflected upon themselves which will keep bright their names and memories so long as the world retains its appreciation for thoughts that are imperishable and art that is immortal.


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Title (uniform): The German and Gallic Muses

Author: Patrick Augustine Sheehan

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Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

Proof editing by: Beatrix Färber and Helena Klimka

Funded by: School of History, University College, Cork

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1. First draft

Extent: 6420 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland— http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2013

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: E880000-003

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  • [Details to follow.]

Canon Sheehan on the Internet

  • http://www.canonsheehanremembered.com.


  1. Herman Joseph Heuser, Canon Sheehan of Doneraile: the story of an Irish parish priest as told chiefly by himself in books, personal memoirs, and letters (New York 1917).
  2. Arthur Coussens. P. A. Sheehan, zijn leven en zijn werken (Brugge/Bruges 1923).
  3. Michael P. Linehan, Canon Sheehan of Doneraile: Priest, Novelist, Man of Letters (Dublin 1952).
  4. Patrick J. McLaughlin, "A Century of Science in the I.E.R.: Monsignor Molloy and Father Gill," The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, vol. 102, 5th series (July—December 1964), p. 265.
  5. James O'Brien (ed.), The Collected Letters of Canon Sheehan of Doneraile, 1883–1913 (Wells 2013).
  6. James O'Brien, Canon Sheehan of Doneraile 1852–1913: Outlines for Literary Biography (Wells 2013). [Bibliographical references 205-11.]
  7. Joachim Fischer, 'Canon Sheehan und die deutsche Kultur', In: Joachim Fischer, Das Deutschlandbild der Iren 1890–1939, (Heidelberg: Winter 2000).

The edition used in the digital edition

‘The German and Gallic Muses’ (1887). In: Irish Ecclesiastical Record‍ 3.3. Ed. by Robert Browne, pp. 42–56.

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  editor 	 = {Robert Browne},
  title 	 = {The German and Gallic Muses},
  journal 	 = {Irish Ecclesiastical Record},
  address 	 = {Dublin},
  publisher 	 = {Brown \& Nolan, Nassau Street},
  date 	 = {1887},
  number 	 = {3},
  volume 	 = {3 },
  pages 	 = {42–56}


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Correction: Text has been checked and proof-read twice.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text.

Quotation: Direct speech is rendered q. Citations are tagged cit. This element contains bibl and qt elements.

Hyphenation: Soft hyphens are silently removed. When a hyphenated word (hard or soft) crosses a page-break or line-break, the page-break and line-break are marked after the completion of the hyphenated word.

Segmentation: div0= the essay; div1= the section.

Standard values: There are no dates.

Interpretation: Some personal names and place-names are tagged. Authors and titles of written works are tagged. Quotes have been identified where references have not been supplied by the author.

Profile description

Creation: By Patrick Augustine Sheehan (1852—1913)

Date: 1886

Language usage

  • The text is in English. (en)
  • A few words and quotes are in Latin. (la)
  • A few words and phrases are in French. (fr)
  • A few words and phrases are in German. (de)
  • Some words are in Italian. (it)
  • One word is in Greek. (gr)

Keywords: essay; 19c; education; poetry: French; poetry: German

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2013-11-11: Additions to bibliographical details made. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2013-08-29: File parsed and validated; SGML and HTML versions created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2013-08-29: Text proofed (2); more structural and content markup applied; TEI header created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2013-08-27: Text proofed (1); basic structural markup applied. (ed. Helena Klimka)
  5. 2013-08-13: Text scanned. (Text capture Beatrix Färber)
  6. 2013-07-26: Text photocopied for CELT. (Text capture Mary Lombard)

Index to all documents

Standardisation of values

  • There are no dates.

CELT Project Contacts



For details of the markup, see the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI)

page of the print edition

folio of the manuscript

numbered division

 999 line number of the print edition (in grey: interpolated)

underlining: text supplied, added, or expanded editorially

italics: foreign words; corrections (hover to view); document titles

bold: lemmata (hover for readings)

wavy underlining: scribal additions in another hand; hand shifts flagged with (hover to view)

TEI markup for which a representation has not yet been decided is shown in red: comments and suggestions are welcome.

Source document


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  1. “With what delight did I hear the woman who conducted us to see the triumphal arch of Augustus at Susa, speak the clear and complete language of Italy, though half unintelligible to me, after that nasal and abbreviated cacophony of the French.” Shelley's Letters from Italy🢀

  2. Iphigenie — Racine. 🢀

  3. Sir Walter Scott, he Lay of the Last Minstrel. 🢀

  4. “Sunt illis haec quoque carmina, quorum relatu, quem Barditum vocant, accendunt animos, futuraeque pugnae fortunam ipso cantu augurantur: terrent enim trepidantve prout sonuit acies. Nec tam voces illae quam virtutis concentus videntur: adfectatur praecipue asperitas soni, et fractum murmur, objectis ad os scutis quo plenior ac gravior vox repercussu intumescat.” —Tacitus. 🢀

  5. W. Taylor. Survey of German Poetry🢀

  6. Up to that date, the learned wrote in Latin. 🢀

  7. Introductory note to Essays and Letters by Ernest Rhys. 🢀

  8. A Defence of Poetry, Part 1, 1821. 🢀

  9. A Defence of Poetry, Part 1, 1821. 🢀


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