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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
From ‘On the Æsthetic Education of Man’
By Friedrich von Schiller (1759–1805)
 
Extract from Letter No. 9: Translation of Edward Payson Evans

THE ARTIST, it is true, is the son of his age; but woe be to him if he is also its pupil, or even its favorite. Let a beneficent divinity snatch him betimes as a suckling from his mother’s breast, nurse him with the milk of a better time, and let him ripen to manhood beneath a distant Grecian sky. Then when he has attained his full growth, let him return, a foreign shape, into his century; not however to delight it by his presence, but terrible, like Agamemnon’s son, to purify it. The subject-matter he will of course take from the present; but the form he will derive from a nobler time, or rather from beyond all time,—from the absolute, unchangeable unity of his own being. Here, from the pure ether of his spiritual nature, flows down the fountain of beauty, uncontaminated by the corruption of generations and ages, which welter in turbid whirlpools far beneath it. The matter caprice can dishonor, as she has ennobled it; but the chaste form is withdrawn from her mutations. The Roman of the first century had long bent the knee before his emperors when the statues were still standing erect; the temples remained holy to the eye when the gods had long served as a laughing-stock, and the infamies of a Nero and a Commodus were put to shame by the noble style of the edifice which gave them its concealment. Man has lost his dignity, but art has saved it and preserved it in significant stones; truth lives on in fiction, and from the copy the original will be restored. As noble art survived noble nature, so too it goes before it in the inspiration that awakens and creates it. Before truth sends its conquering light into the depths of the heart, the poetic imagination catches its rays, and the summits of humanity begin to glow, while the damp night is still lying in the valleys.  1
  But how is the artist to guard himself against the corruptions of his time, which encircle him on every side? By contempt for its judgments. Let him look upward to his dignity and the law of his nature, and not downward to his happiness and his wants. Free alike from the vain activity that would fain make its impress on the fleeting moment, and from the impatient spirit of enthusiasm that measures the meagre product of the time by the standard of absolute perfection, let him leave to common-sense, which is here at home, the sphere of the actual; but let him strive from the union of the possible with the necessary to bring forth the ideal. Let him imprint this in fiction and truth; let him imprint it in the play of his imagination and in the earnestness of his deeds; imprint it in all sensible and spiritual forms, and cast it silently into endless time.  2
 
 
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