official quest even for forty-eight hours. K Division's
"I cannot admit it," said Gottsched, fiercely. "I assert that German is more musical. How harsh, how detestable sounds, for instance, the French 'amour;' how soft and tender--yes, I may say, how characteristic--sounds the word 'liebe!'"
"Aha!" said the king, "you are certainly most happily married, or you would not be so enthusiastic about German 'liebe,' which I admit is a very different thing from French 'amour.' I am, however, convinced that the French language has many advantages over the German. For instance, in the French one word may often suffice to convey many different meanings, while for this purpose several German words must be combined."
"That is true. There your majesty is right," said Gottsched, thoughtfully. "The French language has this advantage. But this shall be no longer so--we will change it! Yes, yes--we will reform it altogether!"
Frederick looked astonished and highly diverted. This assumption of the learned scholar, "to change all that," impressed him through its immensity. [Footnote: Many years afterward the king repeated this declaration of Gottsched to the Duchess of Gotha, "We will change all that," and was highly amused.] "Bring that about sir," said the king, gayly. "Wave your field-marshal's staff and give to the German language that which it has never possessed, grace, significance, and facility; then breathe upon it the capability to express soft passion and tender feeling, and you will do for the language what Julius Caesar did for the people. You will be a conqueror, and will cultivate and polish barbarians!"
Gottsched did not perceive the mockery which lay in these words of the king, but received them smilingly as agreeable flattery. "The German language is well fitted to express tender emotions. I pledge myself to translate any French poem faithfully, and at the same time melodiously," said he.
"I will put you to the proof, at once," said the king, opening a book which lay upon the table. "Look! These are the Odes of Rousseau, and we will take the first one which accident presents Listen to this:"
"'Sous un plus heureux auspice, La Deesse des amours, Veut qu'un nouveau sacrifice, Lui consacre vos beaux jours; Deja le bucher s'allume. L'autel brille, l'encens fume, La victime s'embellit, L'amour meme la consume, Le mystere s'accomplit.'
[Footnote: "Under a most happy omen, The goddess of love Wished that a new sacrifice Should consecrate to her our bright days. Already the fagots are lighted, The altar glows, the incense fumes, The victim is adorned-- By love itself it is consumed, The mystery accomplished."]