Letters of Frederick Engels

To Friedrich Graeber

[Bremen, February 19, 1839]

Et Tu, Brute? Friderice Graeber, hoc est res quam nunquam de te credideriml Tu jocas ad cartas? passionaliter? 0 Tempores o moria! Res dig.nissima memoria! Unde est tua gloria? [And you too, Brutus? Friedrich Graeber, this is a thing I should never have passionately? O times, O customs! Thing most worthy of being remembered. Where is your honour?] Where is your honour and your Christianity? Est itum ad Diabolum! Quis est, qui te seduxit? Nonne verb,um meum fruxit (has borne fruit)? O fili mi, verte [Gone to the Devil! Who is it that has led you astray? Have my words borne no fruit? O my son, turn back.] otherwise I'll beat you with rod and switch, cartas abandona, fac multa bona, et vitam ag-as integram, partem recuperabis optimam! Vides amorem meum, ut spiritum faulenzendeum egi ad linguam latitmm et dic obstupatw: quinam fecit Angelum ita tollum, nonsensitatis vollum, Plenum et, plus ancora much: hoc fecit [Leave the cards, do much good, and if you live a pure life u will win back the best part. You see my love in that I have driven this spirit of idleness to Latin, and say in stupefaction: who then has made the angel so mad, so full of folly and other things? This has been done by...] excessive card-playing. Recollect yourself, you evil-doer, think what is the purpose of your existence! Robber, think of how you are sinning against everything sacred and profane! Cards! They are cut from the skin of the devil. 0 you terrible people. I think of you only with tears or gnashing of teeth. Ha, I am filled with inspiration. On the nineteenth day of the second month of 1839, on the day when midday is at twelve o'clock, a storm seized me and carried me afar and there I saw them playing cards, and then it was time to eat. To be continued.

And behold, there arose from the Orient a dreadful thunderstorm, so that the windows rattled and the hailstones came beating down, but still they went on playing. Thereat a quarrel arose and the King of the Orient marched into battle against the Prince of the Occident and midnight echoed with the cries of the combatants. And the Prince of the Sea rose up against the lands in the Orient and a battle took place in front of his town, the like of which was never before seen by men. But they went on playing. And seven spirits came down from heaven. The spirit wore a long coat and his beard came down to his chest. He was called Faust. And the second spirit had a venerable fringe of grey hair round his bald head and he called out “Woe, woe, woe!” He was called Lear. And the third spirit was of great stature and enormous to behold and his name was Wallenstein. And the fourth spirit was like the children of Anak [Sons of Anak — aboriginal giants reported in the Old Testament to have inhabited Southern Palestine] and he carried a cudgel like to the cedars of Lebanon. He was called Hercules. And the fifth was made of iron through and through and his name was written on his brow — Siegfried — and by his side strode a mighty warrior whose sword gleamed like lightning. He was the sixth and his name was Roland. And the seventh spirit carried a turban on the point of his sword and swung a banner over his head on which was written — Mio Cid. And the seven spirits knocked on the door of the players, but they paid no heed. And behold, there arose from midnight a great brightness which spread over the whole earth like an eagle, and when it was gone I saw the players no more. But written in black letters on the door was Berlin [written in Hebrew] And I was struck dumb.

If my letter to Wilhelm [196] was not sufficient proof of my madness, I hope that it will not occur to any of you now to doubt it. If this is not the case, I am willing to give you even more convincing proof.

Future of the Five Card-players

I have just seen in the Telegraph a review of the poems of Winkler, the Barmen missionary. [197] They are trounced terribly and a mass of extracts are given which have a distinct missionary flavour. If the paper comes to Barmen, that will be the end of Gutzkow’s reputation there, which is already low. These extracts are really infinitely revolting — Pol is an angel by comparison. Lord Jesus, heal the issue of blood of my sins (an allusion to the well-known story in the Gospel. [Luke 8:43]) and a lot more like this. I am despairing more and more about Barmen. It is finished as far as literary matters are concerned. What is printed there is, at best, piffle, with the exception of the sermons. Religious things are usually nonsense. Truly, it is not without justification that Barmen and Elberfeld are cried down as obscurantist and mystic. Bremen has the same reputation and resembles them in many ways. Philistinism linked with religious zealotry, with, moreover, in Bremen’s case, a vile constitution, hinders any uplifting of the spirit, and one of the most outstanding hindrances is F. W. Krummacher. — Blank is complaining so terribly about the Elberfeld preachers, especially Kohl and Hermann, that I should like to know whether he is right. He attacks them for their dryness more than anything else, with the sole exception of Krummacher. — What the missionary writes about love is extremely comical. Look, I shall give you something like it.

The Pietist Declares His Love
Respected maiden, after struggling hard and long
Against all worldly joys, because their lure was strong,
I come to Thee to ask if Thou wouldst not wish me
In honour bound Thy lawful wedded Spouse to be.
Although I love Thee not — that were too much to ask —
I love in Thee the Lord, who —

No — it won’t do. You can’t go making satires on things like this without dragging in the most sacred things behind which these people hide themselves. I should like to see a marriage in which the man does not love his wife but Christ in his wife; and is it not an obvious question there whether he also sleeps with Christ in his wife? Where can you find nonsense like this in the Bible? In the Song of Songs it says — “How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love, for delights!” [The Song of Solomon 7:6] But, to be sure, any defence whatever of sensuousness is attacked nowadays in spite of David, Solomon and God knows whom. I can get terribly annoyed over this kind of thing. In addition, these fellows pride themselves on having the true teaching and they damn anybody who does not so much doubt what is in the Bible, as interpret it in a different way from them. It is a pretty business. If anyone should dare to say that this or that verse is an interpolation, then they'll soon go for you. Gustav Schwab is the finest chap in the world, and even orthodox, but the mystics do not think anything of him because he is not always playing them religious songs in the style of: You say I am a Christian, and in one of his poems hints at a possible understanding between rationalists and Mystics. As far as religious poetry is concerned, it is at an end for the time being until someone comes along who can give it a new impetus. With both Catholics and Protestants everything goes on in the same old humdrum way. The Catholics compose hymns about the Virgin Mary, the Protestants sing the old songs with the most prosaic words in the world. These horrible abstractions — sanctification, conversion, justification and lord knows what loci communes [platitudes] and hackneyed flourishes. Out of anger at present-day religious poetry, out of very piety, that is, one might well go over to the devil. Is our time so shabby that it is impossible for anyone to set religious poetry on to new paths? Incidentally, I think that the most contemporary kind is that which I have used in my Sturm and Florida, concerning which I ask you for the most detailed review on pain of not-receiving-any-more-poems. It is inexcusable of Wurm to hold on to the letters.


Friedrich Engels