imagination, has indeed been perpetrated, both the perpetrators

time:2023-12-01 05:25:06source:androidedit:xsn

His regiment was the Potsdam Grenadier Guard; that unique giant-regiment, of which the world has heard so much in a vague half-mythical way. The giant-regiment was not a Myth, however, but a big-boned expensive Fact, tramping very hard upon the earth at one time, though now gone all to the ghostly state. As it was a CLASS-BOOK, so to speak, of our Friedrich's,--Class-Book (printed in huge type) for a certain branch of his schooling, the details of which are so dim, though the general outcome of it proved so unforgettable,--readers, apart from their curiosity otherwise, may as well take a glimpse of it on this occasion. Vanished now, and grown a Giant Phantom, the like of it hardly again to be in this world; and by accident, the very smallest Figure ever ranked in it makes it memorable there!--

imagination, has indeed been perpetrated, both the perpetrators

With a wise instinct, Friedrich Wilhelm had discerned that all things in Prussia must point towards his Army; that his Army was the heart and pith; the State being the tree, every branch and leaf bound, after its sort, to be nutritive and productive for the Army's behoof. That, probably for any Nation in the long-run, and certainly for the Prussian Nation straightway, life or death depends on the Army: Friedrich Wilhelm's head, in an inarticulate manner, was full of this just notion; and all his life was spent in organizing it to a practical fact. The more of potential battle, the more of life is in us: a MAXIMUM of potential battle, therefore; and let it be the OPTIMUM in quality! How Friedrich Wilhelm cared, day and night, with all his heart and all his soul, to bring his Army to the supreme pitch, we have often heard; and the more we look into his ways, the more we are impressed with that fact. It was the central thing for him; all other things circulating towards it, deriving from it: no labor too great, and none too little, to be undergone for such an object. He watched over it like an Argus, with eyes that reached everywhere. Discipline shall be as exact as Euclid;--short of perfection we do not stop! Discipline and ever better discipline; enforcement of the rule in all points, improvement of the rule itself where possible, were the great Drill-sergeant's continual care. Daily had some loop fallen, which might have gone ravelling far enough; but daily was he there to pick it up again, and keep the web unrent and solidly progressive.

imagination, has indeed been perpetrated, both the perpetrators

We said, it was the "poetic ideal" of Friedrich Wilhelm; who is a dumb poet in several particulars,--and requires the privileges of genius from those that READ his dumb poem. It must be owned he rises into the fantastic here and there; and has crotchets of ultraperfection for his Army, which are not rational at all. Crotchets that grew ever madder, the farther he followed them. This Lifeguard Regiment of foot, for instance, in which the Crown-Prince now is,--Friedrich Wilhelm got it in his Father's time, no doubt a regiment then of fair qualities; and he has kept drilling it, improving it, as poets polish stanzas, unweariedly ever since:--and see now what it has grown to! A Potsdam Giant Regiment, such as the world never saw, before or since. Three Battalions of them,--two always here at Potsdam doing formal lifeguard duty, the third at Brandenburg on drill; 800 to the Battalion,--2,400 sons of Anak in all. Sublime enough, hugely perfect to the royal eye, such a mass of shining giants, in their long-drawn regularities and mathematical manoeuvrings,--like some streak of Promethean lightning, realized here at last, in the vulgar dusk of things!

imagination, has indeed been perpetrated, both the perpetrators

Truly they are men supreme in discipline, in beauty of equipment; and the shortest man of them rises, I think, towards seven feet, some are nearly nine feet high. Men from all countries; a hundred and odd come annually, as we saw, from Russia,--a very precious windfall: the rest have been collected, crimped, purchased out of every European country, at enormous expense, not to speak of other trouble to his Majesty. James Kirkman, an Irish recruit of good inches, cost him 1,200 pounds before he could be got inveigled, shipped and brought safe to hand. The documents are yet in existence; [Forster, Handbuch der Geschichte, Geographie und Statistik des Preussischen Reichs (Berlin, 1820), iv. 130, 132;--not in a very lucid state.] and the Portrait of this Irish fellow-citizen himself, who is by no means a beautiful man. Indeed, they are all portrayed; all the privates of this distinguished Regiment are, if anybody cared to look at them-- Redivanoff from Moscow" seems of far better bone than Kirkman, though still more stolid of aspect. One Hohmann, a born Prussian, was so tall, you could not, though yourself tall, touch his bare crown with your hand; August the Strong of Poland tried, on one occasion, and could not. Before Hohmann turned up, there had been "Jonas the Norwegian Blacksmith,", also a dreadfully tall monster. Giant "Macdoll,"--who was to be married, no consent asked on EITHER side, to the tall young woman, which latter turned out to be a decrepit OLD woman (all Jest-Books know the myth),--he also was an Irish Giant; his name probably M'Dowal. [Forster, Preussens Helden im Krieg und Frieden (Berlin, l848), i. 531; no date to the story, no evidence what grain of truth may be in it.] This Hohmann was now FLUGELMANN ("fugleman" as we have named it, leader of the file), the Tallest of the Regiment, a very mountain of pipe-clayed flesh and bone.

Here, in reference to one other of those poor Giants, is an Anecdote from Fassmann (who is very full on this subject of the Giants; abstruse Historical Fassmann, often painfully cited by us): a most small Anecdote, but then an indisputably certain one; --which brings back to us, in a strange way, the vanished Time and its populations; as the poorest authentic wooden lucifer may do, kindling suddenly, and' peopling the void Night for moments, to the seeing eye!--

Fassmann, a very dark German literary man, in obsolete costume and garniture, how living or what doing we cannot guess, found himself at Paris, gazing about, in the year 1713; where, among other things, the Fair of St. Germain was going on. Loud, large Fair of St. Germain, "which lasts from Candlemas to the Monday before Easter;" and Fassmann one day took a walk of contemplation through the same. Much noise, gesticulation, little meaning. Show-booths, temporary theatres, merry-andrews, sleight-of-hand men; and a vast public, drinking, dancing, gambling, flirting, as its wont is. Nothing new for us there; new only that it all lies five generations from us now. Did "the Old Pretender," who was then in his expectant period, in this same village of St. Germain, see it too, as Fassmann did? And Louis XIV., he is at Versailles; drooping fast, very dull to his Maintenon. And our little Fritz in Berlin is a child in arms;--and the world is all awake as usual, while Fassmann strolls through this noisy inanity of show-booths, in the year 1713.

Strolling along, Fassmann came upon a certain booth with an enormous Picture hung aloft in front of it: "Picture of a very tall man, in HEYDUC livery, coat reaching to his ankles, in grand peruke, cap and big heron-plume, with these words, 'LE GEANT ALLEMAND (German Giant),' written underneath. Partly from curiosity, partly "for country's sake," Fassmann expended twopence; viewed the gigantic fellow-creature; admits he had never seen one so tall; though "Bentenrieder, the Imperial Diplomatist," thought by some to be the tallest of men, had come athwart him once. This giant's name was Muller; birthplace the neighborhood of Weissenfels;--"a Saxon like myself. He had a small German Wife, not half his size. He made money readily, showing himself about, in France, England, Holland;"--and Fassmann went his way, thinking no more of the fellow.--But now, continues Fassmann:--

"Coming to Potsdam, thirteen years after, in the spring of 1726, by his Majesty's order, to"--in fact, to read the Newspapers to his Majesty, and be generally useful, chiefly in the Tobacco-College, as we shall discover,--"what was my surprise to find this same 'GEANT ALLEMAND' of St. Germain ranked among the King's Grenadiers! No doubt of the identity: I renewed acquaintance with the man; his little German Wife was dead; but he had got an English one instead, an uncommonly shifty creature. They had a neat little dwelling-house [as most of the married giants had], near the Palace: here the Wife sold beer [brandy not permissible on any terms], and lodged travellers;-- I myself have lodged there on occasion. In the course of some years, the man took swelling in the legs; good for nothing as a grenadier; and was like to fall heavy on society. But no, his little Wife snatched him up, easily getting his discharge; carried him over with her to England, where he again became a show-giant, and they were doing very well, when last heard of,"-- in the Country-Wakes of George II.'s early time. And that is the real Biography of one Potsdam Giant, by a literary gentleman who had lodged with him on occasion. [Fassmann, pp. 723-730.]


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