Goethe and Napoleon

  In October 1813, Napoleon suffered a crushing defeat at Leipzig. From his home in Weimar, 50 miles away, Goethe wrote these lines: “He who is wise and valiant, has nothing to fear, walks swiftly toward the road to the throne, knowing that there are dangers and difficulties to climb up… This is what you do: Outside the Pengshan, the unreachable, you can quietly take it for yourself: there are many obstacles in the future, you are clear, you are thinking, you are well aware, when the time comes, you will move as the times require, and everything has happened since then… “Goethe lamented that Napoleon had encountered too many difficulties and obstacles in the cause of creating the French Empire. In his mind, no matter whether he succeeded or failed, Napoleon was an undisputed hero.
  ”Napoleon manipulates the world as Hummel manipulates his piano”
  Goethe’s comments on Napoleon focus on his later years. On March 11, 1828, he said to his student Eckman: “Napoleon is amazing! He has always been bright, wise and decisive, full of energy at all times, as long as he thinks it is beneficial and necessary, he will do what he says. His whole life was like a demigod who took great strides, from battle to battle, from victory to victory. It can be said that his mood is always bright. Therefore, such a glorious experience as he has been unprecedented, and perhaps will be No one came after.” In the same conversation, Goethe also praised: “What hardships and hardships Napoleon has not experienced! From the fireworks of the Syrian desert to the snowy battlefields of Moscow, he has experienced countless marches, Bloody battles and night camping! What drowsiness, hunger and cold he has not endured! He slept very little and ate very little, but his mind was often hyperactive. After all the intense activity on the 18th Brumaire, it was midnight. , although he did not eat much food all day, he did not consider his physical strength, and he had enough energy to write the famous letter to the French people in the middle of the night. If you think about what Napoleon accomplished and endured, As you can imagine, at 40 years old, there is nothing sound about him. But even at that age, he stands up as a sound hero.”
  On April 7, 1829, in a conversation with Ekmann, Goethe made this famous comment: “Napoleon is at the mercy of the world, as Hummel is at his piano. The achievements of both men make us Surprise, we don’t know what’s in it, but the facts are right in front of us. Napoleon was especially great because he was the same at all times. He was just as determined before the battle, during the battle, victorious and defeated. Standing on the ground, he can see clearly what he is going to do, and he can act decisively. At any time, he has a plan and can handle it with ease, just like Hummel, whether playing adagio or allegro, low-key or low-key High profile. Such dexterity is manifested in all true talents, in peacetime art as in military art, in the face of the piano or behind the cannon.”
  December 6, 1829, at Heaike Goethe thinks of Napoleon when Mann talks about the Genie in Faust. He hailed Napoleon as a “special figure” that everyone wanted to surpass but could not surpass, just like Raphael in painting, Mozart in music, and Shakespeare in poetry: “Some elves play tricks on the world, and sometimes they put a few There are special people in the world, they have enough allure to make everyone want to chase them, but they are too tall and no one can chase them. For example, put a Raphael, both in terms of conception and practice , he is a perfect painter, and his individual outstanding followers, although very close to him, have never been able to reach that level. If Mozart is an unattainable figure in music, so is Shakespeare in poetry. I know you will object to this, but what I am referring to is only the natural nature, the great natural endowment. Napoleon is also an unattainable figure. The Russians know self-control and do not go to Constantine. Dienburgh, and therefore great; Napoleon was comparable, and he restrained himself and did not go to Rome.”
  On March 2, 1831, Goethe and Ekmann finished their dinner, and soon the topic returned to elves. Goethe believed that “the elf is inexplicable by understanding and reason.” Ekman said, “Napoleon is like a character with a genie.” Goethe immediately agreed, “Yes, he is completely the character with the highest level of genie, no Others can compare to him.”
  On March 21, 1831, Goethe regarded Napoleon as the idol of youth, the representative of power and the personification of order: “Napoleon’s example especially made the French youth who grew up during his reign to develop solipsism. They won’t settle down until a great despot comes among them again and makes the kind of man they themselves aspire to be. Unfortunately, a man like Napoleon will not be born any time soon . I am a little worried, probably still have to sacrifice hundreds of thousands of people, and then the world can have hope of peace.”
  ”You are really a character”
  Goethe was an admirer of Napoleon, and Napoleon was also a fan of Goethe. On April 7, 1829, while praising Napoleon, Goethe happily told Eckmann: “But you have to pay homage to me. What books did Napoleon carry when he marched? There is my book The Young Werther’s Troubles!” Ekmann replied: “From his interview in Erfurt, it can be seen that he has carefully studied The Troubles of Young Werther.” Goethe said, “He is like a criminal judge. The evidence has been studied so carefully. He spoke to me of the same seriousness in The Sorrows of Young Werther. In his writings, Burien made a list of the books that brought Napoleon to Egypt, among which are “The Sorrows of Young Werther.”
  ”The Erfurt interview” mentioned by Ekman took place on October 2, 1808. then. Napoleon presided over the military and political meeting in Erfurt, and he took the time to summon Goethe. In this way, the two great men who had been close to each other for a long time finally met. Napoleon was sitting at the big round table having breakfast, he motioned Goethe to step in a little, and Goethe stopped at a suitable distance from Napoleon. Napoleon looked at Goethe and said, “You are really a character.” Then asked: “How old are you?” Goethe replied: “60”. The emperor praised Goethe for being well maintained. Napoleon turned the subject to The Sorrows of Young Werther. After talking about various opinions, he mentioned a place in the novel and asked Goethe: “Why do you deal with it this way? It’s not natural to do this”, and then talked about his own handling opinions. Goethe agreed and gave some explanations. .
  Sixteen years later, on January 2, 1824, Ekman asked his teacher Goethe curiously, which passage in the novel was Napoleon questioning? Goethe said with a mysterious smile, “Guess what? Napoleon also talked about drama with Goethe, he said that he was against the drama of fate, because this kind of drama should belong to a darker age, “Now, what about people’s fate, politics is fate.” Napoleon also asked some very interesting Questions about “gossip”, such as whether Goethe was married, whether he had children, and what hobbies were there. Whenever he finished speaking, he usually added: “What is Mr. Goethe’s opinion?” On March 14, 1830, Goethe recalled this. “I have nothing to complain about Napoleon. He was very friendly to me, and he talked about the subject of “The Sorrows of Young Werther” in a way that one can expect from a man of great spirit. ”
  On October 7, 1808, Napoleon came to Weimar. In the Weimar Theater under the leadership of Goethe, the Paris troupe brought by Napoleon performed Voltaire’s play “The Death of Caesar”. Goethe was invited to watch the performance. After the performance, Napoleon and Goethe discussed the art of tragedy. Napoleon said: “Tragedy should be the school of kings and people: it is the highest reward a poet can get! You should rewrite “The Death of Caesar” more solemnly and grandly than Voltaire. It will be the greatest reward of your life. Great masterpiece! You should point out to the world in this tragedy that he (by the implication of course Napoleon himself) will make all mankind happy if one can give him enough time to complete the unfinished plan! To Paris Come! I ask you to do so! There you will have a wider horizon and find sufficient material for your new literary creation.” The
  wise Goethe naturally understood Napoleon’s intentions, and he knew that Caesar was an idol. The emperor needs his help. But the emperor wanted to use the poet, but the poet had nothing to do with the emperor. He declined the emperor’s invitation with poetic words (some scholars believe that Goethe was unable to travel because of his old age). On October 14, before leaving Weimar, he gave Goethe a gift: the French Legion of Honor. Goethe later passed on the medal to his son.
  Needless to say, Goethe’s worship of Napoleon was mixed with a lot of personal emotions. Napoleon, the mighty king of Europe, was somewhat flattered by the respect (even on the surface) of him. At the same time, Goethe should always remember that, before meeting Napoleon, he owed the Emperor a favor. It was October 14, 1806, and the French army had moved into Weimar after defeating the Prussian army in Jena, and 16 soldiers had requisitioned Goethe’s house. Signed with a sword, to spend the night there, but was persuaded by Goethe’s wife to go out. The next day, Napoleon arrived in Weimar, and the chaos in Weimar was brought under control. The emperor also issued a special order not to harass “the outstanding scholar Goethe, and to take all measures to protect the great Goethe and his homeland”.
  Napoleon’s courtesy to Goethe can be seen as a great man’s sympathy for another great man, and it can also be seen as a politician’s use of a cultural celebrity. The old Goethe’s excessive reverence for the middle-aged Napoleon, and the fact that Napoleon read his own works as the capital of his life’s pride, can not help but remind people of the words of Engels, “(Goethe) often carried in his mind the prudent son of the genius poet and the Frankfurt councilor, The struggle between the venerable Weimar Privy Councillors; the former hated the vulgarity of their surroundings, while the latter had to give in to this vulgarity, so that Goethe was sometimes great, sometimes very small; sometimes rebellious and mocking , geniuses who despise the world, and sometimes they are mediocre people who are cautious, content with everything, and narrow-minded.”
  Throughout Goethe’s life, Goethe was not only good at dealing with emperors, but also proficient in dealing with the powerful. This is indeed other geniuses. The genius that poets do not possess, at the same time, exposes his characteristics as a mediocrity. However, the personal relationship between Goethe and Napoleon should not be overly blamed, nor should a lot of unwarranted things arise from it.
  ”Napoleon is a figure we cannot imitate”
  For Goethe, Napoleon was both emperor and politician. Also a genius and a hero. Goethe praised the former, it can be said to be able to see that he is a mediocre person, but Goethe admired the latter, it can be seen that he is a great genius. In Goethe’s mind, Napoleon was also a genius, so he said to Ekmann, “Napoleon is a character we cannot imitate” and “is the most creative person we have ever seen”. Ingenuity and creativity are precisely the hallmarks of genius. But Goethe knew that genius is often manifested in youth, so he lamented in his later years that he could no longer write those love songs and “The Sorrows of Young Werther”.
  The reason why genius often appears among young people, Goethe believes, is because the creativity of genius does not depend on a person’s spirit alone, but also on a person’s body, “the body has at least a great influence on creativity. In the past, there were For a time, in Germany people often imagined a genius as a small, thin hunchback. But I would rather see a genius with a strong body, and in Goethe’s view, Napoleon was such a strong and energetic genius, “People often To say that Napoleon was a man made of granite is also mainly about his body. ”
  Goethe agrees with Eckmann’s point of view that Napoleon’s heyday was in his youth. Napoleon, as a man of humble origin and in an era of competition, can become the worship object of a country’s 30 million people at the age of 27. , This is indeed not simple. Therefore, to achieve great things, you must take advantage of your youth. Napoleon is not the only example. There are hundreds of promising people in history who have won great reputations in their youth. From this, Goethe sighed: “If I were a monarch, I would never have placed in a high position the person who has risen step by step by birth and seniority, and is now old and crawling at the pace of habit, because such a person has achieved great success. Not a big deal. I want young people, but they must be capable, clear-headed, full of energy, good-willed, and noble in character. In this way, ruling the country and leading the people forward will be a joy!” Goethe not only praised Napoleon for his great achievements in his youth, but also appreciated that Napoleon provided countless young people with the opportunity to make achievements: “‘Open the way for talents! ‘ This is Napoleon’s famous quote. Napoleon himself did have a discerning eye for people, and the people he chose were all talented, so in all his great careers in his life, he got the right people to serve him, which is difficult for other monarchs to do. ”
  From Napoleon, Goethe saw his own shadow, but his own creativity could only be reflected in the ideological field, and he was powerless to change the lifeless and old-fashioned Germany. So, from Napoleon, Goethe saw the hope of Germany again. That is to say, the push against Napoleon revealed Goethe’s dissatisfaction with the crude and dark social reality of Germany, as well as his disappointment with the German bourgeoisie. He knew that Germany needed a Napoleonic figure, or Napoleon’s youthful and creative spirit, to change all that. If Germany is like a “dung heap”, and there is no dung heap remover in the country, then Napoleon is undoubtedly a timely and qualified cleaner. Just as Engels said, Napoleon “is the representative of the revolution in Germany, the The propagator of revolutionary principles is the destroyer of the old feudal society.”
  Napoleon was also an invader, and his actions would inevitably arouse the awakening of the German nation, leading to the outbreak of a national war. However, Goethe always had an irrelevant attitude towards this war of liberation. On the one hand, he believes that the fragmented Germany is not a unified country, and it is difficult to arouse real “patriotic” feelings. On the contrary, as a “cosmopolitan”, he subconsciously desires the unification of Europe: on the other hand, he feels Victory against Napoleon would not bring true freedom to the people, but would only liberate them from one oppression and at the same time be placed under another. He told the historian Heinrich Luden: “Can the people really awaken? Does it know what it wants, what can it do? What can it gain or win?” History also confirms Goethe’s doubts. The defeat of Napoleon became the victory of the European monarchies over the French Revolution, and the European monarchies that defeated Napoleon established the so-called “Holy Alliance”, and this alliance became a conspiracy against their own people under the leadership of the Russian tsars, and the German people were in the “Holy Alliance”. After the victory of the National Liberation War, he was placed under the cruel rule and oppression of the feudal princes.
  Goethe’s attitude towards Napoleon and the war of national liberation was criticized by many, who accused Goethe of being unpatriotic. In this regard, Goethe defended himself in a conversation with Heinrich Luden: “You must not think that I am indifferent to these great ideas of liberty, of the people, of the fatherland. No, these ideas are in us; they are part of who we are. , no one can throw them away from themselves. Germany is warm in my heart, and I often feel a fiery pain when I think of the German nation, so worthy of individuality and so tragic as a whole. ”
  Goethe loved Germany, but he chose the way he recognized and could use it. On March 14, 1830, Eckmann told Goethe, “People are blaming you for not taking up arms, at least not fighting as a poet.” Goethe replied: “I have no hatred in my heart, How could I take up arms? I was no longer a young man, how could I have hatred in my heart? If I had encountered that incident at the age of 20 (referring to the liberation struggles that sprang up all over Germany after Napoleon conquered Berlin and occupied Germany), I would never I was not in the back, but I was over 60 at the time! In addition, we cannot all serve the motherland in the same way. Everyone should do their best according to their talents. I have worked hard for half a century, and I am tired enough. aI dare to say that the job (referring to literary creation) that is naturally assigned to me, I work day and night, never resting or slack, always trying my best to do research, do as much as possible and do it well.”

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