Page:Egotism in German Philosophy (1916).djvu/47

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only to hopeless imitations and lackadaisical poses. Gretchen’s garden, even the Walpurgisnacht, was in truth more classical. This is only another way of saying that in the attempt to be Greek the truly classical was missed even by Goethe, since the truly classical is not foreign to anybody. It is precisely that part of tradition and art which does not alienate us from our own life or from nature, but reveals them in all their depth and nakedness, freed from the fashions and hypocrisies of time and place. The effort to reproduce the peculiarities of antiquity is a proof that we are not its natural heirs, that we do not continue antiquity instinctively. People can mimic only what they have not absorbed. They reconstruct and turn into an archaeological masquerade only what strikes them as outlandish. The genuine inheritors of a religion or an art never dream of reviving it; its antique accidents do not interest them, and its eternal substance they possess by nature.

The Germans are not in this position in regard to the ancients. Whether sympathetic like Goethe, or disparaging like Burckhardt, or both at once, like Hegel, they have seen in antiquity its local colour, its mannerisms, its documents, and above all its contrasts with the present. It was not so while the traditions of antiquity were still living and authori-