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Heinrich Heine: Excerpts from The Romantic School (1836)

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What happened soon afterward in Germany is all too familiar to you. When God, the snow, and the Cossacks had destroyed Napoleon's best forces, we Germans received the royal command to free ourselves from the foreign yoke, and we flared up in manly indignation at the servitude endured all too long, and we were inspired by the good melodies and bad verse of Körner's songs, and we fought and won our freedom, for we do everything we are ordered to do by our rulers.

The period of preparation for this struggle was naturally the most favorable soil for a school that was hostile to the French spirit and extolled everything characteristically German in art and life. At that time the Romantic School went hand in hand with the aims of the governments and the secret societies, and Mr. A. W. Schlegel conspired against Racine with the same objective as that of Prime Minister Stein when he conspired against Napoleon. The School swam with the current of the time, the current that was flowing back to its source. When at last German patriotism and German nationality were completely victorious, the national-Germanic-Christian-Romantic School, the "neo-German-religious-patriotic art" also triumphed conclusively. Napoleon, the great Classicist, as classic as Alexander and Caesar, fell, and Messers August Wilhelm and Friedrich Schlegel, the inconsequential Romanticists, just as romantic as Tom Thumb and Puss in Boots, rose up as conquerors.

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But one must also consider the lack of political freedom in Germany. Our would-be wits have to refrain from any sarcasm in regard to actual rulers and thus want to take substitute revenge for this restriction on the theater kings and stage princes. We Germans, who possessed almost no serious political newspapers, were always doubly blessed with a host of esthetic journals containing nothing but worthless fairy tales and theatrical reviews, so that anyone who saw them was almost compelled to think that the whole German nation consisted simply of babbling nursemaids and theater critics. This would have been unfair to us, however. How little such wretched scribbling satisfied us was demonstrated after the July Revolution when it looked as though a free word could also be uttered in our dear fatherland. Suddenly journals sprang up which reviewed the good or bad acting of real kings, and many of them, who forgot their lines, were booed in their own capitals. Our literary Scheherazades, who used to lull the public, the coarse sultan, to sleep with their little novelle, were now forced into silence, and the actors saw with astonishment how empty the orchestra was, no matter how divinely they played, and that even the reserved seat of the formidable town critic very often remained unoccupied. Previously the good stage heroes had always complained that they and only they had to serve as public topic of conversation and that even their domestic virtues were disclosed in the newspapers. How frightened they were when it looked as though there might be no talk about them at all any more!

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