sons, Carl August and Constantin. She made the offer so financiallyrnenticing that, in 1772, Wieland moved from the theologicallyrnstuffy atmosphere of Erfurt to the more relaxed atmospherernof Weimar. The poet celebrated his liberation fromrnacademic chores by writing the libretto for the first Singspielrnopera to have been composed for German voices—A/ceste (arnweak forerrmner of Mozart’s Entfiihrung aus dem Serai/)—andrnby launching the Teutscher Merkur (to rival Mercure de France),rnwhich overnight became Germany’s leading literary monthly.rnWieland, who was 16 years older than Goethe, was a singularlyrncongenial poet who did not resent the intrusion on his literaryrnhirf of the 26-year-old genius from Frankfiirt. Had it beenrnotherwise—who knows? —Goethe, in that fateful month ofrnNovember 1775, might have reverted to his original plan andrnproceeded on his way to Italy, and the little ducal town wouldrnhave relapsed into its somnolent provincial obscurity. But fortrmatelyrnfor Weimar, the 42-year-old author of charming versernromances and the 26-year-old poet and revolutionary dramatistrn—who, in his rough-and-tumble play Goetz von Berlichingen,rnhad disrespectfully thumbed his nose at the prevailing conventionsrnof polite discourse and had rudely kicked the sfiltedrnAristotelian “unities” of time and space off the German stagehitrnit off immediately and remained good friends until the dayrnofWieland’s death in 1813.rnInfinitely less close were Goethe’s relations with the thirdrnmember of the literary trio who, in less than three decades,rnmade Weimar culturally famous throughout the Germanspeakingrnworld and beyond. This was not, as one might at firstrnsuppose, Friedrich Schiller, a relafive latecomer to the scene,rnbut Johann Gottfried Herder, whom Goethe had met byrnchance in a suburb of Strasbourg while Herder was undergoingrnpainflil treatment for his eyes. Six months after his arrival inrnWeimar, Goethe took what was probably the boldest andrnbravest step in his curiously long, vacillating, and dilettantishrncareer: He persuaded his young mentor, Duke Carl August, torninvite Herder to come to Weimar to fill the long vacant “superintendency”rn(a senior ecclesiastical post in the LutheranrnChurch) of the old Peter and Paul Church, whose Cranach altarrnpainting of a crucified Christ is one of the masterpieces ofrnlate-Gothic German art. Fortunately for his sponsors and thernsubsequent fate of Weimar, Herder, a truculent germanophilernwho often quarreled with the more cosmopolitan Goethe, acceptedrnthe invitation.rnToday, the name of Herder means nothing to Americans,rnoutside of the university faculties of comparative literature, history,rnand philosophy. But during his 26-year “reign” inrnWeimar, where he preached and pontificated from the pulpitrnof the Peter and Paul Church, Herder’s influence throughoutrnthe Germanic world as a philosophical theorist of the romanticrnSturm und Drang movement equaled Goethe’s and was comparablernto Rousseau’s prestige in France. Like Rousseau,rnHerder believed that feeling and emotion are every bit as importantrnas reason; but unlike Rousseau, who had a particularrnaffinity for music. Herder was fascinated by the infinite diversity,rnrather than by the universal similarity, of human beings.rnEach individual people, he was convinced, possessed its particularrnVolksgeist, a kind of native genius spontaneously expressedrnin its poetic mythology, folk songs, and tales. Whereas, almostrnto a man, the French Encyclopedists and philosophes had wantedrnto do for the study of civil society and psychology what Newtonrnhad done for the cosmos—by discovering the universalrn”laws” governing the individual and collective behavior of humanrnbeings—Herder, inspired by the principles of organicrngrowth and development that cause an oak to differ from arnbirch tree or a poppy from a rose, felt that the only way to understandrna people and thus help it fulfill its culfriral vocafionrnwas to dig deep down into the distant, almost invisible roots ofrnits linguistic past in order to discern what was indigenous andrnauthentic rather than artificially copied and “imported” fromrnoutside. He was one of the first great explorers of the Nordicrnroots of German culture: It was Herder who urged Goethe tornstudy Shakespeare and the Germanic Edda myths. So ardentrnand singleminded was his idee fixe as to what was nationallyrn”authentic” and inauthenfic that he ended up denouncing thernItalian Renaissance as the pernicious interrupter of a vigorousrnGermanic culture that had begun to flourish during the laterrnMiddle Ages. His disparagement of Greek and Roman modelsrnfor the purposes of contemporary German education broughtrnhim into direct conflict with Goethe, an ardent admirer of ancientrnGreece and Rome.rnAlthough Herder has been credited with having invented thernGerman word Nationalismus, he was anything but a narrowmindedrnnationalist, for his interest in folk cultures and poeficrnmyths was universal. His antipathy for every kind of culturalrn”artificiality” was so profound that, as Isaiah Berlin noted in arnbrilliant essay, it inspired him to write trenchant sentences likernthis one:rnThe savage who loves himself, his wife and his child . . .rnand works for the good of his fribe as for his own . . . is inrnmy view more genuine than the human ghost, the . . .rncifizen of the world, who, burning with love for all hisrnfellow ghosts, loves a chimera. The savage in his hut hasrnroom for any sfranger . . . the saturated heart of the idlerncosmopolitan is a home for no one.rnThere was hardly a great figure in what can properly berncalled Germany’s cultural renaissance during the late 18th andrnearly 19th centuries who was not enormously influenced byrnHerder. The list includes Hegel—whom Herder, had he notrndied in 1803, would surely have condemned for his philosophicalrnapotheosis of the state. For, as Isaiah Berlin emphasized, ifrnHerderrndenounces individualism, he equally detests the State,rnwhich coerces and mutilates the free human personality.rnHis social vision is antagonistic to government, power,rndomination. Louis XTV and Frederick the Great (likernCaesar and Charlemagne) represent a detestable ideal.rn. . . He is repelled by the claims of contemporary Celtomaniacsrnand Teutomaniacs who rhapsodized over thernancient Gauls and Northmen. He celebrates Germanrnbeginnings, because they are part of and illuminate hisrnown civilization, not because German civilization ranksrnhigher than others on a cosmic scale.rnA few months before Goethe’s arrival in Weimar, a fieryrnthunderbolt had reduced much of the ducal casfle to rooflessrnstonework and charred beams. I cannot help feeling that thisrndisaster was curiously providential in encouraging Goethe tornprolong his stay. A keen lover of the arts who might have becomerna painter had he displayed a greater talent in his pencilrnsketches, Goethe retained a life-long interest in architecture.rnMARCH 1999/23rnrnrn