Amid such commotion of the foreign elements and the domestic, an important change occurs in the Crown-Prince's course of schooling. It is decided that, whatever be his progress in the speculative branches, it is time he should go into the Army, and practically learn soldiering. In his fourteenth year, 3d May, 1725, [Preuss, i. 26; 106; and
However it may have fared with his other school-lessons, here now is a school-form he is advanced to, in which there will be no resource but learning. Bad spelling might be overlooked by those that had charge of it; bad drilling is not permissible on any terms. We need not doubt the Crown-Prince did his soldier-duty faithfully, and learned in every point the conduct of an officer: penalty as of Rhadamanthus waited upon all failure there. That he liked it is by no means said; he much disliked it, and his disgusts were many. An airy young creature:--and it was in this time to give one instance, that that shearing of his locks occurred: which was spoken of above, where the Court-Chirurgus proved so merciful. To clog the winged Psyche in ever-returning parade-routine and military pipe-clay,--it seems very cruel. But it is not to be altered: in spite of one's disgusts, the dull work, to the last item of it, has daily to be done. Which proved infinitely beneficial to the Crown-Prince, after all. Hereby, to his Athenian-French elegancies, and airy promptitudes and brilliancies, there shall lie as basis an adamantine Spartanism and Stoicism; very rare, but very indispensable, for such a superstructure. Well exemplified, through after life, in this Crown-Prince.
OF THE POTSDAM GIANTS, AS A FACT.
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!--
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.
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!
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,
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!--