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Heinrich Heine: Excerpts from The Romantic School (1836)

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In point of fact, when the Revolution broke out in Germany, this was the end of the theater and theater criticism, and the alarmed writers of novelle, actors, and theater critics feared quite rightly "that art was dying." But our fatherland was successfully saved from this horrible fate by the wisdom and energy of the Frankfurt Diet of the German Confederation. It is to be hoped that no revolution will break out in Germany; we are protected from the guillotine and all the terrors of freedom of the press; even the chambers of deputies, whose competition had done so much harm to the theaters despite concessions granted these long before, are being abolished, and art has been saved. Everything possible is now being done in Germany for art, especially in Prussia. The museums are ablaze with artful delight in color, the orchestras roar, the danseuses leap their loveliest entrechats, the public is enchanted with the Arabian Nights of novelle, and theater criticism flourishes once more . . .

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In the Middle Ages most people believed that when a building was to be erected, it was necessary to kill some living creature and lay the cornerstone on its blood; in this way the building would stand firm and indestructible. Whether it was the absurd ancient pagan idea that one could win the favor of the gods by blood sacrifices or whether it was a misunderstanding of the Christian doctrine of atonement that produced this notion about the magic power of blood, about healing by blood, about this belief in blood – suffice it to say, the belief was prevalent, and there live on in songs and sagas the gruesome particulars about how to slaughter children or animals in order to strengthen large buildings with their blood. Today mankind is more sensible. We no longer believe in the magic power of blood, either the blood of an aristocrat or a god, and the great masses believe only in money. Does present-day religion consist then in God as money incarnate or money as God incarnate? In a word, people believe only in money; they ascribe magic power only to minted metal, to the Host of silver and gold; money is the beginning and the end of all their works; and when they have a building to erect, they take great pains to see that some coins, a capsule with all kinds of coins, is placed under the cornerstone.

Yes, as in the Middle Ages everything, single buildings as well as the whole complex of state and church buildings, rested on the belief in blood, all our present-day institutions rest on the belief in money, in real money. The former was superstition, but the latter is pure egotism. Reason destroyed the former; feeling will destroy the latter. The foundation of human society will some day be a better one, and all noble hearts of Europe are agonizingly engaged in discovering this new and better basis.

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