Supplementary Appendix 296.2

Schelling’s Review of Wilhelm Schlegel’s
Ehrenpforte und Triumphbogen für den Theaterpräsidenten von Kotzebue
bey seiner gehofften Rücckkehr ins Vaterland

|273| Although Kotzebue’s experience being detained at the Russian border and transferred to Siberia, the setting of one of his most popular plays, [1] along with his subsequent pardon and return to Petersburg amid the well-known circumstances — whereby the story acquired a truly Kotzebuean dramatic ending — [2] have doubtless generated some quite witty ideas in many who learned about these events, the above-mentioned Ehren- und Triumphpforte is not really an idea in this sense.

It is instead an enduring, existing, self-enclosed collection of witty inventions of all sorts that consistently and simultaneously indulge in the most unique inspirations and forms and that, taken together, unite into a monument that, rather than being erected merely for the moment, will instead be taken as a model and pattern even after the subject and his fate to which it is devoted have long been forgotten.

Some readers may well find it necessary to reach for the customary recourse sought by impotence and either lament or condemn the base heart and malicious nature of the wit that shines through this work. Here we may be allowed to view the piece from the loftier perspective of art, and for our part to contribute to its true assessment, since it will doubtless open a wide path for itself through the German reading world quite on its own initiative by way of its unique, inner energy and the victorious wit with which it elevates itself above its subject. We can view the whole as a phenomenon that is completely new in German literature and in many respects, especially from the perspective of art and poesy, quite significant.

The beginning consists of sonnets of the sort we have hitherto received from but a single poet — sonnets in which the author’s artistic talent seems to have elevated itself to a new potence. It is not entirely obvious where one should first direct one’s attention, whether to the perfection of the sonnet in this peculiar form, namely, burlesques, that announces itself sometimes through the most exquisite rhymes (in part rime strucciole, which come across so beautifully |274| especially in the first sonnet), sometimes through an intentional metrical twist, e.g., in the sixth sonnet:

Du scheust nicht mehr die Litteratur-Zeitung —
["You no longer shun/shrink from/fear the (Allgemeine) Literatur-Zeitung"]

and sometimes (and almost always) through the most entertaining wordplays, assonance, and whatever other sorts of playful devices the language offers. Or perhaps one should direct one’s attention first to the art with which every possible circumstance of the present object, and of his story (all of which in hindsight admittedly presents quite favorable material for the poet), has been engaged to produce the most humorously entertaining effect imaginable. Among the various possibilities, let us simply offer the very first sonnet as a sample: [3]

Vacation we now have from dissolute tears,
Nor does anyone impregnate the muses of our stage:
To cultivate the national theater of the Tungusic peoples
Does Kotzebue travel to Siberia.

To you, Apostle, from England to Hesperia,
Of naive humanity in sunken bosoms!
Soon, as parterre-petrifying medusas,
Will you bring to us Kamchatkan materials.

Second Benyovsky! Bayard without reproach! [4] 
Beyond the Boreas proceed now and get to know
The land of which you prophesy as seer.

Russia's monarch bestows loftier nobility on you:
Although through birth and the stars you were made an ass,
The kibitka made you into a Hyperborean.

The second sonnet, composed in both German and English, challenges the English to come to the aid of their poet Kotzebue. [5] Let us pass over the intervening sonnets and instead offer part of the eighth, which wittily compares the effects of Kotzebuean plays with galvanic frog experiments:

And yet you understand how to deal with organisms
Better than does every physicist of our age,
And all your plays, one might say,
Are but experiments with galvanism. [6] 

The silver Thaler of current noble-mindedness
Along with light plates of your sharp wit
You are able to press up on armored (better bared) nerves.

|275| And ah! such wondrous effects does it all have!
With the emotion of lightning do you force
The public — the great frog — to twitch. [7] 

The sonnets are followed by epigrams, and the epigrams by a catalogue raisonné of Kotzebue’s plays. [8] After the rather sharp pepper of the preceding poems, these are admittedly a considerably milder but still pleasant seasoning. — The centerpiece of the whole is Kotzebues Rettung, oder: der tugendhafte Verbannte, ein empfindsam romantisches Schauspiel in zwey Aufzügen. [9]

It would be unreasonable to demand that this modest piece be an artistically completed, perfected whole. As the subject, so also the parody. Hence as praise we can say only that all the motifs offered by Kotzebue’s story together with his dramatic inventions have been exhausted and sufficiently engaged in this piece.

What follows is then the Festgesang der teutschen Schauspielerinnen bey Kotzebue’s Rückkehr — a masterpiece of sarcastic parody, and a beautiful pendant to Goethe’s “Musen und Grazien in der Mark.” [10] Here are the first three stanzas, since the space provided here does not permit a reprint of the entire piece:

[ . . .] [11]

|276| Even the most dried-up diaphragm cannot but be convulsed into laughter by even a modest performance of this celebratory song with its accompanying music! [12] It is followed by an ode addressing Kotzebue in alternating stanzas as a sans-culotte and aristocrat, a piece that, one is tempted to say, cuts right to the marrow. [13]

We would certainly linger with the romanze describing Kotzebue’s procession through the Siberian steppes were our remaining space not intended instead for the unique poem “Kotzebue’s Travelogue” in terza rime. This poem is so poetically conceived and devised, and so artistically executed, that it will doubtless achieve truly immortal status in German literature.

The conception is based on understanding Kotzebue’s journey through the Mongolian peoples as an allegory of his reputation among the various regions of Germany, to which end the names of the former have been cleverly altered. We cannot resist at least partially preserving in our own periodical something that merits eternal abidance in our literature.

Not until I came to the Werkeltägisch fields [14] 
Did I find the naturalistic Klotzaken, [15] 
Who, like wise savages, scorn all art.

Then I came to the Zotiaken, [16] 
Who got upset because of my Bahrdt, [17] 
And the Schmutzken [18]  were hard on my heels.

Hence I fled to the Zähregissen, [19] 
Whose bosoms overflow with humanity,
And who weep more than other nations piss.

Alongside them dwell the Tugendusen, [20] 
A noble people; ah, but how I was able to touch both
Through the birthings of my delicate muses! 

Their allies for waging war against the dreamers
Who create solely for beauty, are the 
Quergisen and Plattkiren. [21] 

Who would believe? the Quergisens' braincase
Was located much farther to the left and rear:
They twisted their hand whenever they grasped something.

The Plattkire blinked because of his skewed eyes,
Cordially squeezing me with flattened nose
Such that I thought I would faint from sheer ardor.

What a delight for me, humanitarian that I am,
To swap my heart there with each and every one!
No applause ever charmed me more!

The Dummojeden [22]  were quite kind to me,
Unpretentiously, and without boasting in the slightest,
The Wischwaschen [23]  similarly praised my discourses.

|277| The Lahmschädalen, [24]  however,
Sensed the most subtle barbs of my jokes,
Then I saw their broad cheeks shine.

With a large slit have they widened
Their mouths that they might laugh more heartily,
That is how far their fondness for wit extends.

Alas, here we must break off; let us nonetheless add the solution to this puzzle:

Germany itself, in its own indigenous districts,
Does harbor the innumerable nations that you visit;
Here is the land Kotzbuzkoi, [25]  and here are you to dwell.

A discussion of the ingenious elements of this overall creation might well serve those who belong to the one or other of the “peoples” just described. Connoisseurs will find quite on their own initiative that this work has opened up a completely new region of poesy hitherto hardly known in Germany, one seemingly wholly and completely unique to this author, and which doubtless will not please the kind of false humanity that protects and makes common cause with all that is dissolute and base, with all that renders manner and morals limp and corrupts the imagination, and which finds rigorous demands in art and science unbearable simply because it claims the same blandness for itself.

Hence this present, wonderfully imaginative whole will not only maintain an independent existence on the basis of its overall conception, but will also endure through its very concrete effects and influence.

The sonnet form, though equally so the terza rime, has in the hands of this author become such a powerful, flexible organ, that one cannot really measure yet how much further it will develop. The poetic meter, even the most artificial, stands at his beck and call with respect to both intent and content to an extent hitherto unseen in a German poet. Where such skills and talents converge, success cannot be far behind.

This present reviewer would like to point out explicitly that he has no personal agenda that might prompt him to find a satire on Kotzebue and related spirits good. Even if he himself belonged to the latter, and even if he viewed Kotzebue as something quite different than he by conviction does, nonetheless from the perspective of poesy and art he would still have to bestow his unqualified approval on this work.

One can admittedly not change the minds of those who continue to find something good even after its baseness has been disclosed in so varied and unmistakable a fashion. If, however, they be inclined to defend it nonetheless, they would do well first to take to heart the final stanza of the paean with which the whole concludes:

[ . . .] [26]


[*] Erlangen Litteratur-Zeitung (1801) 35 (19 February 1801) 273–78 (Sämmtliche Werke, 7:535–41; Fambach 4:540–44). Pagination from original; annotations by the present editor. This review discusses what the Jena Romantics called Wilhelm Schlegel’s Kotzebuade (Wilhelm’s lengthy title translates approximately as “Gate of Honor and Triumphal Arch for the Theater President von Kotzebue Upon His Anticipated Return to the Fatherland”).

See also Garlieb Merkel’s remarks about this review in his Briefe an ein Frauenzimmer über die wichtigsten Produkte der schönen Literatur 5 (1801) 2 (January–April) 474–76, in a postscript to his twenty-ninth letter (supplementary appendix 296.3). — Concerning the “gate of honor” and “triumphal arch” in Wilhelm’s title, see esp. Kotzebue’s 1803 caricature “The Most Recent Aesthetics.” Back.

[1] Kotzebue’s Graf Benjowsky oder Die Verschwörung auf Kamtschatka (Leipzig 1795) had been performed eleven times in Weimar since 1792 and had been translated into English and Italian (title vignete to the edition of 1795):



[2] Kotzebue discusses these circumstances in his autobiographical Das merkwürdigste Jahr meines Lebens (Berlin 1801); Eng. trans. The Most Remarkable Year in the the Life of Augustus von Kotzebue, containing an account of his exile into Siberia, and of The other extraordinary Events which happened to him in Russia, trans. Benjamin Beresford, 3 vols. (London 1802). Back.

[3] Approximate prose translation. Back.

[4] Kotzebue, Bayard: Ein Schauspiel in fünf Aufzügen (Leipzig 1801) (frontispieces to two editions of Bayard [Leipzig 1802; Vienna 1833]):



[5] Wilhelm’s original self-composed poem in English:

On, Britons, ye, the brutal Brutus's brood!
Awake and save your poet Kotzebue!
Him you may claim as yours, he is your due,
He still does cheer your porterthiken'd blood.

With mighty fleets divide the Ocean's flood,
Nor cease, till Paul him renders, to pursue;
Say: One Britannia lives, one Czaar like you,
One Kotzebue, all great alike and good.

If the grand Czaar doth nobly him unloose:
Rule, Kotzebue, then, and Britannia rule!
Then let your worth enjoy its well-won fruits.

With morals spice the pastry of his muse,
And fish from out her flat, broad, stagnant pool
Beauties of Kotzebue, fit for the brutes. Back.

[6] Grammatically incorrect Germ. “mit den Galvanismus” instead of “mit dem Galvanismus” (as in Wilhelm’s original and as corrected in Schelling’s Sämmtliche Werke), perhaps one of the intentional (or not?) changes Caroline suggests (letter to Wilhelm on 5–6 March 1801 [letter 296]) made the review seem more base or crude.

Various orthographical differences between the original version of this review as published in the Erlangen Litteratur-Zeitung and that published in Schelling’s Sämmtliche Werke reflect an attempt in the latter to remove or smooth over the orthographical irregularities in the original (e.g., original Stükke for orthographically more acceptable Stücke; teutsch for deutsch), irregularities to which Caroline may be broadly referring. Back.

[7] See Caroline’s mention of galvanic experiments with frogs in her letter to Friedrich von Hardenberg on 4 February 1799 (letter 219), with illustrations in note 6 there. Back.

[8] Catalogue raisonné, Fr. “descriptive or analytical list or catalogue,” in this case brief, wry asides at Kotzebue’s plays, e.g., the previously mentioned Graf Benjowsky oder Die Verschwörung auf Kamtschatka (English trans. Count Benyowsky; or, the Conspiracy of Kamptschatka):

Count Benyowsky! and if I say: Benyowsky, the Count, then I understand
Quite against custom and reason that a conspiracy is at work. Back.

[9] Eng. approx.. “Kotzebue’s rescue, or: the virtuous exile, a sentimentally romantic play in two acts.” Back.

[10] “Musen und Grazien in der Mark,” Musen-Almanach für das Jahr 1797, 68–73; for an excerpt from Goethe’s piece, see Caroline’s letter to Luise Gotter on 4 September 1796 (letter 169), and concerning the background also note 11 there. Back.

[11] See the first three stanzas of this piece in the supplementary appendix on Wilhelm’s Kotzebuade. Back.

[12] Caroline suggests in her letter to Wilhelm on 5–6 March 1801 (letter 296) that Schelling was particularly upset with the addition of this figure of speech (“dried-up diaphragm”) into his review. The editor of his Sämmtliche Werke 7:538 similarly mentions an “extant letter” according to which the author (Schelling) protested the implication that the expression came from him. Back.

[13] See the rendering of this ode in the supplementary appendix on Wilhelm’s Kotzebuade. Back.

[14] Play on the German spelling of the Russian town Werchoturje (Verkhoturye), with an allusion to the German expression “workaday.” Back.

[15] Play on Kosaken (Cossacks) and the word for “boor, oaf, lout” (Klotz). Back.

[16] Play on Ostiaken (tribe of the Ostiak) and the word for “smutty, obscene joke” (Zote). Back.

[17] See the explanation of allusions in the Ode in the supplementary appendix on the Kotzebuade. Back.

[18] Play on Tschutschken (the tribe of the Chukchi) and for “dirt, filth” (Schmutz). Back.

[19] Play on Tscheremissen (the Mari language and people) and the German words for “tear” (as in weeping) (Zähre) and “pour” (giessen). Back.

[20] Play on Tungusen (the Tungusic peoples) and “virtue (Tugend) and possibly “nozzle” (Düse). Back.

[21] Plays on (Kirgisen (the Kirghisians) and the word for “crosswise, crossways, athwart” (quer), and then on Baschkiren (the Bashkirs) and the word for “flat, trivial, trite, shallow” (platt). Back.

[22] Play on Samojeden (Samoyeds) and the words for “dumb, stupid” (dumm) and “every (one)” (jeder). Back.

[23] Play on Tschuwaschen (the Chuvash) and the German word for “wish-wash, twaddle” (Wischiwaschi). Back.

[24] Play on Kamtschadalen (the Kamchadals) and the German words for “lame” (lahm and “skull(s), cranium” (Schädel). Back.

[25] A play on Kotzebue’s own name, though Wilhelm’s readers might well also read this construction as a play on the word for “vomit, puke” (kotzen). Back.

[26] See the rendering of this farewell piece in the supplementary appendix on Wilhelm’s Kotzebuade. Back.

Translation © 2015 Doug Stott