Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

may understand the English language and use it for business and literary purposes, when they worship God, read his sacred word, or listen to the dispensation of holy truths they prefer to hear and speak the language whose tones first fell upon their ears in infancy and in which their mothers taught them to pray. When a German wishes to

When a German wishes to express his deepest, holiest thoughts he does it in his mother tongue. And does not the same hold true of the Swede, the Norwegian, the Frenchman, and the native of any other country? We can approach people in their holy of holies only through their vernacular. Thus the millions of immigrants in this country have been reached by our Church and other Churches; thus they are reached by our missionaries in the various countries of Europe and in heathen lands. Any other method is destined to fail. If we wish to win the people for Christ we must go to them—they will never come to us—and must bring them the tidings of salvation in their own language. That we might continue to do this we have founded our German institutions of learning.

However, though this was the main it was not the only object we had in view when we organized our schools. As stated above, we need them also to imbue our young people with a love for their mother tongue and its literary treasures; or, expressed in other words, we need them for the more general dissemination of German culture among our own people. Our American brethren, who will readily accede to the first point, namely, the necessity of our schools as nurseries for the German ministry, may not see so clearly why we as American citizens should endeavor to propagate through these schools the German language and spirit in America. It is not, however, our purpose to found a separate organization within the State, but rather to infuse into the minds of our children a love for our adopted country. We think it possible to do both—to imbue our young people with the love of this country, and also with a love for the treasures of thought and sentiment that Germany has bequeathed to them and that are embodied in the language of their forefathers. How long a lease of life the German language will have in this country it is useless to predict. We will, however, risk the prophecy that no German colony will hereafter be able to secrete and separate itself from the body of the nation, as the Germans did for more than a century in the valleys of Pennsylvania. That will no longer be possible in these days of the railway, the telegraph, and the public school. Besides, our public life is too intense to permit such narrow-minded provincialism. We would rather be absorbed into the body politic and live the broad national life of an American. But, at the same time, we must beg leave to cultivate our mother tongue and to cling to the ideals infused into our souls in infancy, and which find expression in our incomparable literature. We do not assert that the German language is the most expressive, the most virile, the most perspicuous and sonorous, as has been affirmed by enthusiastic admirers. Perhaps the English is more expressive, the Latin more virile, the French clearer, and the Italian richer in euphony. It suffices us to know that it is our mother tongue, the legacy of our ancestors; that alone is reason enough why we should continue to cultivate it and endeavor to bequeath it to our children as a sacred heirloom. Besides, our American brethren and other nations cherish our language and literature no less than we. They too know how to value German thought and culture. For years there has been annually an exodus to German universities on the part of American college graduates. No longer do the halls of classic Oxford and Cambridge echo the footsteps of American students as formerly. Nor are American students seen in large numbers in the Latin Quarter of Paris. If Henri Murger were to arise from his grave he would recognize comparatively few American faces among the crowds that surge along the Boulevard Saint Michel and the other thoroughfares of the Latin land. The center of intellectual gravity has changed from Oxford and Paris to Germany. Berlin, Leipsic, Munich are now the magnetic poles that attract American youth. The consequent change in our intellectual life has been so radical

sance,

that it might be termed the American educational renais

A new spirit has been infused into our schools, and courses of study have been changed to meet the demands of our higher intellectuality. The reaction has not only affected our higher institutions of learning, but even our public schools. The earlier mechanical methods have given place to a more rational teaching, adapted to the requirements of the different epochs of child life. The reign of the text-book has, to a certain extent at least, been supplanted by such teachers as are found in Germany and Switzerland.

German and American thought and civilization thus react beneficially upon each other. There need be no grating in the process, no envy in the emulation. Nor need there be any fear that our German schools may alienate the affections of our youth from America. They could not accomplish that if they wished to do so. Our German youth are fully as loyal to their country and as patriotic as their fellows of American descent. That was proved during the Civil War, and was again demonstrated in the late war with Spain.

This paper is of an apologetical character. We wish, if possible, to clear away some prevailing misconceptions in reference to our German schools and German work at large. Our American brethren need not be alarmed. This conglomeration of peoples and tongues and heterogenous masses of humanity in our country will crystallize into a homogeneous unity in due time and in a slow, peaceable manner. There is no power in the land that can prevent the process of unification which is going on imperceptibly but steadily. The time will come when there will be no longer Scandinavians, Germans, Irish, or Italians in this country, but only Ameri

No one can tell how distant that day is. The discontinuance or decrease of immigration would, of course, hasten it. But one thing is sure, the day will come.

cans.

Vietor ticker,

ART. VII.—THE POETRY OF JOHN KEATS.

When we are told by Lord Houghton that Keats was born in the upper ranks of the middle class” the language must be interpreted with a good degree of charity, in that he was in reality the son of an English hostler, Thomas Keats, and born in Finsbury, in the stable of Jennings, his father's employer, his mother being the daughter of said Jennings. Still, father and mother alike are reported to have been clever, sensible, and upright people, good specimens of the English yeomanry, the middle-folk of the country, even though not necessarily of the "upper ranks.” Of an Anglo-Celtic stock, he inherited his impulsive nature from the one branch and his sober, straightforward habit from the other, and, though he came into the world prematurely, October 31, 1795, he came legitimately, and under fairly favorable auspices. As to education, Keats was denied the privileges of university training, his father's narrow resources rendering this impossible, even though, as we learn, his parents were keenly desirous that he should be thoroughly taught, if not at Oxford or Cambridge, then at Harrow or one of the great English secondary schools. We find him, in due time, at school at Enfield, under the care of a clergyman by the name of Clarke, the same school to which afterward his younger brothers naturally went. His school life, as far as the records go, was happy and profitable. A sensitive, high-spirited, and whole-hearted boy, a kind of acknowledged champion in the school, and yet shy and tender and easily discouraged with himself and his work, he was steadily gathering knowledge, disciplining his mental faculties, and preparing himself for what has been called by Mrs. Ward a singular life.

Here, again, history repeats itself, and we learn of the old story of passionate fondness for books, for good literature wherever found, for romance and mythology, while he was student enough in the sphere of classics to render the entire Æneid into prose.

Called from school to become a surgeon's apprentice at the neighboring town of Edmonton, he still loved books far more than bandages and hospitals, catching some of his best inspirations from the reading of "The Faerie Queene” and shorter poems of Spenser. Thus we learn "that it was 'The Faerie Queene' that awakened his genius," his poem entitled “Imitation of Spenser" evincing this pleasing and early dependence. Even though completing his medical studies and passing the requisite examination for hospital service, his purpose was still literary, while he impatiently awaited the opportunity to realize it. Thus from 1817 to the year of his death, February 23, 1821, his poetic work went on, impeded, as it often was, by increasingly impaired health and embittered by the cruel attacks of the critics. English criticism has rarely gone to greater lengths of personality and coarse abuse than it did in the pages of Blackwood and the Quarterly. The merciless utterances of Lockhart, Wilson, and others against the so-called “Cockney school” of poetry, as represented in Leigh Hunt and Keats, and the equally extreme thrusts of Gifford and his colleagues, seemed to have no other origin than a malicious desire to wound the feelings of these rising poets. It is to the lasting credit of Keats that under the lash of these unjust attacks he could say, “Praise or blame has but a momentary effect on the man whose love of beauty in the abstract makes him a severe critic on his own works.” Naturally mindful of the fact that his work had in it some essential merit, he may be pardoned for adding, “This is a mere matter of the moment; I think I shall be among the English poets after my death,” a prophecy fully confirmed by the appreciative language of Lowell, "Enough that we recognize in Keats that indispensable newness—that we call genius. His poems mark an epoch in English poetry.” That he was wounded by these criticisms, however, cannot be doubted, nor would it have been natural not to have been. They were inflicted purposely as a punishment, and not at all on behalf of the cause of good letters in England, and the punishment was especially felt by Keats’s sensitive nature as a rising and an aspiring poet, the Sidney

« AnteriorContinuar »