Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Da rufen die Geister im Scheiden

Laut durch die stille Nacht: Wir werden erst ruh'n und rasten,

Wann Ihr, das Volk, erwacht.

Erst wann für immer euch kettet

Der Einheit starkes Band, Und alle Germanen sich reichen

Die treue Bruderhand.

Es werden die Knospen voller

Erblüh'n im Eichenwald,
Wann donnernd durch alle Gauen

Die Freiheitshymne fchallt.

Dann wird der Cheruskerfürst ruh'n

Im stillen Waldesgrab, Dann blicken wir Manen mit Wonne

Vom Himmelszelt herab.

[blocks in formation]

HISTORICAL AND CRITICAL SURVEY,

ETC., ETC.

EARLIEST PERIOD.

NIGHT

TIGHT and Chaos prevail throughout the earliest history of

Germany. When the Roman and Greek historians* have thrown a few rays of light into it, we behold those martial Teutons living near their memorable forest of Teutoburg, where, headed by Arminius, Germania's Ajax, they made the proud and invincible Romans, under Varus, rue the day when first they set foot on the virgin soil of Germany. We hear their thundering voices in praise of their gods Wuotan and Tuisco; or we listen to their dirges in memory of those fallen in battle.

In reading the “Edda,' the oldest collection of songs based upon the mythological and heroic traditions of the Scandinavian races, we hear, as it were, a faint echo of the remotest antiquity of Germany. Iceland, the home of Scandinavian poetry, with its wild scenery calculated to impress the imagination so forcibly, retained the traditions of Odin long after the spread of Christianity; and the waves which break against its desolate shores repeat at the midnight hour the Sagas of by-gone ages.

Charlemagne caused many of the old Teutonic songs to be carefully collected, that the martial spirit they breathe might pass from generation to generation, and the deeds of the fathers remain engraven on the memories of the children. Beautiful sounds of the past, wild flowers of the German heart, imbued with heaven's purest breath-freedom, eterual freedom! Glorious time when we were a nation! The trees sprung from that soil are still growing in our holy forests; the same winds of heaven rustle through their branches. Old Father Rhine winds his silvery path through blessed fields and lovely dales; the vine spreads in green festoons along its picturesque shores; and yet the patriot's heart

* The principal Roman and Greek writers on ancient Germany, are: Cæsar, Tacitus, Dio Cassius, the Scriptores Historiæ Augustæ, Ammianus Marcellinus, Priscus, Procopius, Strabo, Mela, Ptolemy, the Tabula Peutingerana, and the Notitia dignitatum.

feels melancholy, and, thinking of the times gone by, is reminded of Heine's immortal lines:

6

6

Ich weiss nicht, was soll es bedeuten,

Dass ich so traurig bin;
Eine Sage aus alten Zeiten,

Die kömmt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.' To survey the mental development of Germany, spreading over a space of about two thousand years, writers generally divide our literary history into Seven Periods, and separate these into Two Parts, the first four forming the history of the Ancient, and the last three, that of our Modern Literature. In order to simplify this classification still more, I have deviated from this arrangement by adopting only Three Principal Periods, namely—the earliest, up to the Middle Age; the second, up to Klopstock; the third embracing the classical and present era.

According to Tacitus, whose book, • De situ, moribus et populis Germaniæ,' written A.D., 98, contains the fullest account about ancient Germany which we possess, the German language is that of an ancient, powerful, and unmixed race, divided into different tribes. He says, 'I concur in opinion with those who deem the Germans never to have intermarried with other nations; but to be a race, pure, unmixed, and stamped with a distinct character. * Hence a family likeness pervades the whole, though their numbers are so great: eyes stern and blue; ruddy hair ; large bodies, powerful in sudden exertions, but impatient of toil and labour, least of all capable of sustaining thirst and heat. Cold and hunger they are accustomed by their climate and soil to endure.' (Germania, 4.) Such were the originators of the present German language, one of the oldest, purest, and most cultivated, yielding to none in force, perspicuity, richness, and, if I may use the term, in adaptability; a language of which Klopstock, its great reformer, so truly and patriotically says :

Dass keine, welche lebt, mit Deutschland's Sprache sich
In den zu kühnen Wettstreit wage,
Sie ist, damit ich's kurz, mit ihrer Kraft es sage,
An mannichfalt'ger Uranlage,
Zu immer neuer und doch deutscher Wendung reich,
Ist, was wir vor jenen grauen Jahren,
Da Tacitus uns forschte, waren,
Gesondert, ungemischt und nur sich selber gleich.'

6

*

Ipse eorum opinionibus accedo qui Germaniæ populos nullis aliis aliarum nationum connubiis infectos, propriam et sincerain et tantum sui similem gentem extitisse.

Tacitus says:

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

The original meaning of the name of Germany has been a subject of considerable contention among the learned. The people who first crossed the Rhine and expelled the Gauls, now called Tungri, were then called Germans, a denomination adopted by the conquerors, to spread terror among the conquered, and which, referring to a particular tribe, and not to a whole people, subsequently prevailed.' It is an established fact, however, that the word has never been in use amongst the Germans themselves, nor has any acceptable German derivation of it been found. Jacob Grimm, the great leader of German philologists, derives it from the Celtic gairm, noise, exclamation, and maintains that, in all probability, the word originated among their neighbours. He says in his 'Geschichte der deutschen Sprache': 'In my opinion, the word has evidently originated among the Gallic neighbours of the Germans.'

Germani looks like a Celtic word, derived from gairm. pl. gairmeanna, call, exclamation (Welsh garm, probably related to the middle Low Dutch caermen, vociferari, lamentari), which again might lead to the present Gaelic gairmadair, garmadair, or the Welsh garmwyn, crier, a name well adapted for a Teutonic hero fighting against the Gauls, the more so as the term baritus or fremitus is distinctly ascribed to him. Germani, therefore, only means, 'impetuous, ardent warrior,' an appellation probably in itself sufficient to have spread terror among the Gauls. Even the Romans, at the time of Cæsar, felt this terror (Cæs. i. 39). Thus appeared to the Belgian Gauls, the Tungri, a name, in the course of time, applied to all the German tribes.*

Zeuss, the leading authority in Celtic matters, considers the word to signify neighbour,' from the Cambrian ger, old Irish gair, neighbour; but this does not prove anything about Germanus. Ger-man taken as two separate words, would mean a little neighbour, an appellation, I, for one, with great deference to Zeuss, must take exception to, for, although somewhat diminutive now, we, as a nation, were not so at the time alluded to.

* Die Tungern treten auch im Krieg des Civilis und hernach unter Agricola neben Bataven, Treverern und Nerviern im belgischen Gebiet auf. Die ‘Notitia dignitatum’ erwähnt einer Cohors Batavorum, Tungrorum und Frixagorum (Frisævonum) hintereinander. Tungra, heute Tongern, zwischen Lüttich und Mastricht, führt nach ihnen den Namen ; die warmen Bäder zu Spa liegen apud Tungros. Im Singular lautete der Volksname Tunger. Keltischer Anklang ist hier gar nicht. Ich halte das Wort für verwandt mit gitengi, bitengi, Tencter und dem althochdeutschen zankar, vibex, wozu auch zanga, forceps, und zungu lingua gehören. Mit Bezuy auf das letzte Wort könnte tungar, althochdeutsch zungar aussagen linguosus, clamosus, was jenes gairmadair und garmwyn sogar erreicht, möglich also, dass Germani geradezu Vebersetzung von Tungri war. (JACOB GRIMM.)

The assertions of these two great authorities are, therefore, evidently inadmissible, especially if compared with the text in Tacitus. Neither of them produces a Celtic word analogous to Germanus; for can it seriously be held, that these ancient Germans called themselves little neighbours, and screamed in order to excite terror? or that they were, in fact, a species of diminutive gorillas, howling in the wilderness?

The subject over which every succeeding generation has, as it were, spread an additional veil, must needs remain one of doubt, and if we discuss it here more fully, it is for the purpose of showing the diversity of opinion expressed thereon, and the wonderful patience and research evinced by our writers in trying to elucidate it. We should state, at the same time, that the remarks refuting Grimm's and Zeuss' assertions, are not the author's, but were kindly communicated to him by an eminent German philoloyist and classical scholar in this country. In my opinion, it appears hazardous to speak positively, and with self-complacent authority, on a matter necessarily impenetrable by the mental eye.

Comparative philology, to which we are in many respects so greatly indebted, has also its drawbacks for, being, on account of its intricate nature, only cultivated by the few, it must always remain inaccessible to the masses. The latter, therefore, have to receive the law laid down by the enquirer, however erroneous the carefully spun-out theories may be on which it is founded.

We must believe their assertions bon-gré mal-gré, like those of that notorious African traveller, who astonished modern naturalists with his gorilla feats, and whose statements, precluded as we are from verifying them, we swallow the more readily because we did not witness the grimaces which accompanied his exploits.

The Germans, from the Latin germanus, natural (germen, germ), called themselves the natural people,* that is to say, were the natives, the aborigines (indigenæ), according to Tacitus. Now, the native name Deutsch, Gothic—thiudisks, means precisely the same thing: of the people, that is, of course, of the native or aboriginal

* Grimm's observations on ‘Deutsch’are :-Gal. I. 14. wird (in Ulphilas) édvik@s durch das gothische thiudisko übertragen; thiudisks folglich ist Ovikós gentilis und, wie das lateinische Wort von gens, von thiuda gebildet, bezeichnet also was volksmässig, popular, national ist ; erst heutige Schriftsteller können es nöthig finden von deutscher Nationalliteratur zu reden, was das alte diutiska schön auf einmal ausdrückt. Einen bessern allgemeinen, alle germanische Stämme umfassenden, keinem abbrechenden Namen zu erfinden wäre unmöglich. Hatte er anfangs die Bescheidenheit der Vorstellung barbarus, vulgaris, so inuss er dem erwachten Bewusstsein Stolz auf alles Eigene und Vaterländische einflössen.'

« AnteriorContinuar »