For a generation, Weimar was the center of intellectual life in Germany. A new time had come from here since Goethe had chosen it as his residence. He had found Wieland there, dragged Herder with him, and Schiller was going to be in the same place. Seldom have more important forces been united in a narrower space; In fact, the greater talent seemed to follow the larger one. What a rich life was not in this cooperation! Rich in deep thoughts, in poetic creations, in reshaping folk influences! Little Weimar had become a classic soil; from here German poetry received its laws.
Next to Weimar was Jena. The old university had won new youth food. If Weimar had poetry for itself, then Jena belonged to science. Hardly any other big names shone here. Here the Kantian philosophy had its seat, then Fichte had followed, last Schelling had proclaimed the new philosophy of the nature. Beside them stood many other important authority. Griesbach the theologian, Eichstädt the philologist, Woltmann the historian, A. W. Schlegel the critic and aesthetics. And what power could be more attractive than the mind? No sooner had there been an outstanding talent, which would not have been attracted to this world, and would at least have stayed in it for a short time, according to Jean Paul, Friedrich Schlegel, Novalis.
It was in July of the year 1792, when he made a journey to the Harz. For the first time he wanted to enter the mountains to satisfy a longed-for yearning. The purest, most beautiful summer sky was over him when he left the city. No sooner had he ever felt lighter and happier than at that moment; Sun, field, forest, everything was refreshing. He made his way to Eisleben. In the villages through which he came, there was joyful movement. It was St. John’s Day, and girls and boys bound the passing wanderer usual slogans, which then had to buy. His life on the ice was followed by a funeral procession. A miner was buried to rest. A deep emotion seized him; in his first and simplest forms life came to meet him. In full moonshine he put back the last part of the way.
Now Shakspeare became his password. From all sides, individual volumes of friends were borrowed, bought by antiquarians. The father reluctantly followed this new twist of youthful enthusiasm. He was an admirer of Goethe, but he was very mistrustful of Shakspeare. Like almost all the older generation, he saw in him a savage, semi-barbarous genius, found his tragedy raw and bloody, his jokes tasteless, the whole incomprehensible and confused. One day he met the son again engrossed in a book. He leaned over his shoulder. It was Shakspeare’s “measure of measure.” Angrily he broke into the words: “Well, that was just missing, to make you completely crazy!” Ludwig jumped up from his seat and replied quickly composed: “Allow, dear father, just like here is, I always thought, a poem must be written. That’s what I’ve been looking for a long time. “Bass replied the father:” Oh, you are and you remain a stupid boy! “