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The religious poetry of Germany underwent a change in the course of this eighteenth century; it ceased to consist primarily of congregational hymns, and assumed the forms of the irregular lyric, the ode, and the epic. We have seen something of this change in the poems of Tersteegen and Arnold; it meets us more strongly in those of Gellert, Cramer, and Klopstock. The spirit of that age was not favourable to hymn-writing; for really good hymns must have in them something of the nature of the popular song; they must have its warmth, movement and melody; they must spring from a cordial, unquestioning faith, which has no misgivings about the response it will evoke from other hearts. The critical doubting religion of the eighteenth century, which even in its more earnest forms felt itself continually obliged to stand on the defensive, could not produce such hymns; nor could its stiff and artificial style furnish them with a fitting expression. The poetical diction of this time is indeed remarkably deficient in variety of rhythm and in musical flow; the traditional forms of metre and rhyme itself were 314 despised, and great efforts were made to introduce new measures, of which but one, the hexameter, took any root. But the old mastery over lyrical forms which distinguished German poetry in the days of its Minne-singers, the ringing melody which marked its popular songs, were quite lost; and we meet with nothing like them till we reach the days of Goethe. Even the classical hymns, though consecrated by association, could no longer satisfy the more pedantic taste of the age, and there sprang up a perfect mania for altering them, and for making new collections of such modernised versions for the various States. These alterations generally consisted in watering down the old vigour,--substituting "virtue" for "holiness" or "faith," "the Supreme Being" for "our faithful God," and so on;--and in planing away little unevennesses of metre so as to reduce hymns and tunes alike to a correct and tiresome flatness. A large proportion of the State hymn-books still in use date from this period.

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