"To my sad mind, Herr Doctor, it seems ascribable rather to the Dryasdust of these Ages, especially to the Prussian Dryasdust, sitting comfortable in his Academies, waving sublimely his long ears as he tramples human Heroisms into unintelligible pipe-clay and dreary continents of sand and cinders, with the Doctors all applauding.
"Had the sacred Poet, or man of real Human Genius, been at his work, for the thousand years last past, instead of idly fiddling far away from his work,--which surely is definable as being very mainly, That of INTERPRETING human Heroisms; of painfully extricating, and extorting from the circumambient chaos of muddy babble, rumor and mendacity, some not inconceivable human and divine Image of them, more and more clear, complete and credible for mankind (poor mankind dumbly looking up to him for guidance, as to what it shall think of God and of Men in this Scene of Things), --I calculate, we should by this time have had a different Friedrich of it; O Heavens, a different world of it, in so many respects!
"My esteemed Herr Doctor, it is too painful a subject. Godlike fabulous Achilles, and the old Greek Kings of men, one perceives, after study, to be dim enough Grazier Sovereigns, 'living among infinite dung,' till their sacred Poet extricated them. And our UNsacred all-desecrating Dryasdust,--Herr Doctor, I must say, it fills me with despair! Authentic human Heroisms, not fabulous a whit, but true to the bone, and by all appearance very much nobler than those of godlike Achilles and pious AEneas ever could have been,--left in this manner, trodden under foot of man and beast; man and beast alike insensible that there is anything but common mud under foot, and grateful to anybody that will assure them there is nothing. Oh, Doctor, oh, Doctor! And the results of it--You need not go exclusively 'to France' to look at them. They are too visible in the so-called 'Social Hierarchies,' and sublime gilt Doggeries, sltcred and secular, of all Modern Countries! Let us be silent, my friend."--
"Prussian Dryasdust," he says elsewhere, "does make a terrible job of it; especially when he attempts to weep through his pipe-clay, or rise with his long ears into the moral sublime. As to the German People, I find that they dimly have not wanted sensibility to Friedrich; that their multitudes of Anecdotes, still circulating among them in print and VIVA VOCE, are proof of this. Thereby they have at least made a MYTH of Friedrich's History, and given some rhythmus, life and cheerful human substantiality to his work and him. Accept these Anecdotes as the Epic THEY could not write of him, but were longing to hear from somebody who could. Who has not yet appeared among mankind, nor will for some time. Alas, my friend, on piercing through the bewildering nimbus of babble, malignity, mendacity, which veils seven-fold the Face of Friedrich from us, and getting to see some glimpses of the Face itself, one is sorrowfully struck dumb once more. What a suicidal set of creatures; commanding as with one voice, That there shall be no Heroism more among them; that all shall be Doggery and Common- place henceforth. 'ACH, MEIN LIEBER SULZER, you don't know that damned brood!'--Well, well. 'Solomon's Temple,' the Moslems say, 'had to be built under the chirping of ten thousand Sparrows.' Ten thousand of them; committee of the whole house, unanimously of the opposite view;--and could not quite hinder it. That too is something!"--
More to our immediate purpose is this other thing: That the Austrians have been in Council of War; and, on deliberation, have decided to come out of their defences; to quit their strong Camp, which lies so eligibly, ahead of Breslau and arear of Lissa and of Schweidnitz Water yonder; to cross Schweidnitz Water, leave Lissa behind them; and meet this offensively aggressive Friedrich in pitched fight. Several had voted, No, why stir?--Daun especially, and others with emphasis. "No need of fighting at all," said Daun: "we can defend Schweidnitz Water; ruin him before he ever get across." "Defend? Be assaulted by an Army like his?" urges Lucchesi, the other Chief General: "It is totally unworthy of us! We have gained the game; all the honors ours; let us have done with it. Give him battle, since he fortunately wishes it; we finish him, and gloriously finish the War too!" So argued Lucchesi, with vivacity, persistency,--to his own ill luck, but evidently with approval from Prince Karl. Everybody sees, this is the way to Prince Karl's favor at present. "Have not I reconquered Silesia?" thinks Prince Karl to himself; and beams applause on the high course, not the low prudent one. [Kutzen, pp. 45-48.] In a word, the Austrians decide on stepping out to meet Friedrich in open battle: it was the first time they ever did so; and it was likewise the last.
Sunday, December 4th, at four in the morning, Friedrich has marched from Parchwitz, straight towards the Austrian Camp; [Muller, p. 26.] he hears, one can fancy with what pleasure, that the Austrians are advancing towards him, and will not need to be forced in their strong position. His march is in four columns, Friedrich in the vanguard; quarters to be Neumarkt, a little Town about fourteen miles off. Within some miles of Neumarkt, early in the afternoon, he learns that there are a thousand Croats in the place, the Austrian Bakery at work there, and engineer people marking out an Austrian Camp. "On the Height beyond Neumarkt, that will be?" thinks Friedrich; for he knows this ground, having often done reviews here; to Breslau all the way on both hands, not a rood of it but is familiar to him. Which was a singular advantage, say the critics; and a point the Austrian Council of War should have taken more thought of.
Friedrich, before entering Neumarkt, sends a regiment to ride quietly round it on both sides, and to seize that Height he knows of. Height once seized, or ready for seizing, he bursts the barrier of Neumarkt; dashes in upon the thousand Croats; flings out the Croats in extreme hurry, musketry and sabre acting on them; they find their Height beset, their retreat cut off, and that they must vanish. Of the 1,000 Croats, "569 were taken prisoners, and 120 slain," in this unexpected sweeping out of Neumarkt. Better still, in Neumarkt is found the Austrian Bakery, set up and in full work;--delivers you 80,000 bread-rations hot-and-hot, which little expected to go such a road. On the Height, the Austrian stakes and engineer-tools were found sticking in the ground; so hasty had the flight been.
How Prince Karl came to expose his Bakery, his staff of life so far ahead of him? Prince Karl, it is clear, was a little puffed up with high thoughts at this time. The capture of Schweidnitz, the late "Malplaquet" (poorish Anti-Bevern Malplaquet), capture of Breslau, and the low and lost condition of Friedrich's Silesian affairs, had more or less turned everybody's head,--everybody's except Feldmarschall Daun's alone:--and witty mess-tables, we already said, were in the daily habit of mocking at Friedrich's march towards them with aggressive views, and called his insignificant little Army the "Potsdam Guard-Parade." [Cogniazzo, ii. 417-422.] That was the common triumphant humor; naturally shared in by Prince Karl; the ready way to flatter him being to sing in that tune. Nobody otherwise can explain, and nobody in any wise can justify, Prince Karl's ignorance of Friedrich's advance, his almost voluntary losing of his staff-of-life in that manner.