19th century:

§722 The great sculpin into the Rhine (1866-1890): VI-40.



The great of Mainz shall be deprived of his great

Dignity to put out his great thirst:

Those of Cologne shall come to pity him so much

That the great sculpin shall be thrown into the Rhine.

(Grand de Magonce pour grande soif estaindre,

Sera privé de sa grand dignité:

Ceux de Cologne si fort le viendront plaindre,

Que le grand groppe au Ryn sera getté.)


NOTES: The great of Mainz: = Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of the German Empire represented by Mainz by synecdoche.

The great of Mainz shall be deprived of his great dignity [for the one ] to put out his great thirst [in satisfying it]: “ The one ” is nothing but the Emperor William II, for only he has the authority of dismissing Bismarck from Imperial Chancellery.

Those of Cologne: = The people of Germany represented by Cologne by synecdoche.

Sculpin (groppe): « Groppe, Angehörige einer Familie der Panzerwangen, keulenförmiger Fisch mit einem mit starken Stacheln besetzten Kopf: Cottidae.» (Wahrig) (Groppe, member of a family of sculpins with a strong-spined head: Cottidae.)

« sculpin, also called BULLHEAD or SEA SCORPION, any of the numerous, usually small fish of the family Cottidae (order Scorpaeniformes), found in both salt water and freshwater, principally in northern regions of the world. Sculpins are elongated, tapered fish and characterisitically have wide, heavy heads. The gill covers are armed with one or more spines, the pectoral fins are large and fanlike, and the skin is either naked or provided with small spines. The dorsal fins contain both a spiny and a soft-rayed section; these may be either separate or united.» (NEB,1988)

This is a metaphor for Bismarck, for he has a kind of physignomy like a sculpin’s head in its most characteristic impression, and he diligently militarized Germany, the German word ‘Panzer’ having the meaning of ‘armature’.

Cf: Rheingroppe: http://www.fishbase.org/Photos/PicturesSummary.php?ID=62357&what=species ; Otto von Bismarck: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/43/DBP_150._Geburtstag_Otto_von_Bismarck_20_Pfennig_1965.jpg?uselang=fr

Bismarck in youth: « In 1832 he entered the University of Göttingen, where he spent two years, followed by one at the University of Berlin. Instinct and tradition suggested the army as a profession, but his mother apparently desired a civil career for this passionate, self-willed and robust son; whether because she feared the life of an officer, or divined the power in her beloved Otto, is uncertain; but she had her way, and after passing the necessary examinations he entered the civil service on its judicial side, and was attached for duty at the fashionable Aix-la-Chapelle and at Berlin. One year had to be given to military service, and this he spent with the Rifles of the Guard (Garde-Jäger). Until 1839, when he lost his mother, abruptly teminated his State employment and, owing to financial difficulties of his family, took over with his brother Bernhard the management of the family properties, his life had shown little indication either of ambitions or exceptional abilities. As a university student, though not as idle as legend subsequently pictured, he had failed to find in academic studies either intellectual inspiration or practical utility. Then, as throughout his career, Bismarck revolted against discipleship or subordination of any kind. Life was the only teacher from whom he was willing to learn, and the lessons of life he hammered out for himself, and he refused to take them ready-made. He joined a famous duelling corps, the Hanoverana. Duelling, beer-drinking, and the riotous escapades of undergraduate youth, provided an outlet for his exuberant physical powers. In the punishment book of the university his name figures more than once. Friends he made in plenty, three in particular Moritz von Blanckenburg, Motley, the American historian, and Roon, twelve years his senior. Little did either guess what the latter friendship would signify for the history of Prussia. There is a story that in 1832 he made a bet with an American student that Germany would be unified in twenty years; but if he made the bet, he lost it. Forty, not twenty, years hence he could have asked from the Wilhelmstrasse for repayment. He detested and neglected his duties as a civil servant. The career of ' the animal armed with a pen ' behind closed 'windows and under the orders of domineering, exacting, or ill-bred superiors, stirred his Junker pride and independence to mutiny. At Aix-la-Chapelle, crowded with fashionable pleasure-seekers of all nations, he plunged into gambling, debt, and dissipation. For four months he broke away altogether, travelled to Wiesbaden and Switzerland, fell in love with a pretty English girl, but whether he broke with her or she with him is uncertain. The sap was running strongly upwards, and in the dawn of superb physical vigour Bismarck, like many, sought in physical satisfaction an anodyne for an incurable unrest.» (Robertson, 1919, p.52-54).

The great sculpin shall be thrown into the Rhine: This expression means that Bismarck (the great sculpin) shall retire into his home country (Friedrichruhe) which he rules as a Junker, a river [the Rhine] being one of the elements of sculpins.  

« The plain truth was that after June 1888 the conditions which had made the Bismarckian system workable and possible were suddenly reversed. Bismarck and Germany had grown accustomed to the rule of an emperor never fitted by his gifts to be a great master either of administration or of policy, who in 1871 was in his seventy-fourth year, and with every year was obliged to surrender more and more of power and control to the adviser whose genius, amazing capacity for work, and complete accord with his sovereign in the general principles of government inspired a deep confidence. Bismarck had thus syndicated in himself both the formidable powers of the Imperial Chancellorship and the still more formidable powers of the Emperor and Prussian King. The new Emperor [William II] was young, versatile, and fired by a devouring activity. Had he been a constitutional sovereign he would not have been prepared to step on to the shelf during the best years of his life. But he was not a constitutional sovereign. William II. had been born and bred in the militarist atmosphere of the Hohenzollern Court, and he had been trained in the theory, sedulously enforced since 1847 by no one more than by Bismarck himself, that the Prussian monarch personally governed, and that the Prussian Crown was not the idle ornament of a constitutional building, but the living and operative force in the mechanism of the State. ‘If a lion knew its own strength’, Wolsey remarked of the young Henry VIII., ‘hard it were to rule him.’ There were, in fact, practically no limits to what the Emperor, with the help of the Prussian Crown, could do, if he chose to exercise to its full all the latent power in the prerogative, prestige, and influence of the Imperial and Prussian Monarchy. William II. took some months to discover what an unexplored and inexhaustible heritage had fallen to him — a heritage enriched by Bismarck's efforts for a quarter of a century. Therein lay the irony of the situation. Had Bismarck been the Parliament-made minister of a constitutional sovereign, whose ministerial position rested on a national mandate expressed through a representative assembly to which he was responsible, it would have been William II., not Bismarck who must have given way. Bismarck had indeed the confidence of the nation. A plebiscite in 1890 would have retained him in office till death came. But the nation could not save him in 1890, nor could it bring him back. Once he had lost the support of the Crown he was powerless. He could not appeal to the Reichstag nor to the Federal Council, still less to the nation by a general election. He must either resign or be dismissed. He could not even advise his Imperial Majesty whom the Crown should invite to be its chief adviser in his place. And it is in the record that the man who all his life had fought against the conception of an electro-plated royalism, and against a kingship emasculated by English Liberalism, should later denounce this subservience to a personal monarchy as ' Byzantinism and Cæsar worship.'

There was also more even than this in the situation that was bitter. William II. was young. He could toil and travel as only the young can. Age has its compensations and its rewards, but not all its maturity of wisdom and experience can find a substitute for the recuperative vigour of manhood and womanhood in their prime. Bismarck could recall the felicity of the time when after a day at his desk he could swim in the moonlit waters of the Rhine [the great sculpin in the Rhine], snatch a couple of hours of sleep, and then fling himself into work again or wear out a fiery horse in the exultant freshness of youth and the joy of life. He could do it no longer. He told the Reichstag in 1889 that he was obliged severely to limit his efforts and concentrate on the important and the essential. He now fought a losing battle with the Emperor — ebbing forces on the one side against vitality on the other. For all that, he was not prepared to let go. The more his grip slackened, the more fiercely did he demand submissive obedience to his autocratic will. It is a characteristic that history can exemplify fifty times over that the strongwilled who have long held unquestioned sway may lose, as the chariot of time drives remorselessly on, everything but the strength of their will. The appetite for domination waxes precisely as the capacity to gratify it wanes. The bitterest punishment indeed that the years can bring to some men and women is the fear and the resentment of rivals in power. A new epoch had arrived in Germany which knew and reverenced Bismarck, but Bismarck neither knew nor reverenced it. William II. was a child of the new epoch. Bismarck had taught Germany to be strong and how to be strong. He had placed the Empire on the pinnacle of Continental power, and new worlds had swum into its ken. The young Imperial Germany of 1888 desired to prove that it was as strong, as great, as ambitious, and as saturated with the realism of life as the Germany that had overthrown Vienna and the Babylon of France. It was  grateful for Bismarck's achievements; Bismarck summed up for it all that was mighty in Germanism; the ends that Bismarck defined must pass with Bismarck himself; but Bismarckian methods and the Bismarckian gospel were imperishable and could not be superseded. The profoundest homage that could be paid to the master was to apply the principles and methods of Bismarckian statecraft to the problems of the future. The Bismarckian Empire that was the State, incarnating Continental Power, must be transformed into the World-Empire that incarnated World-Power. Nothing must happen in the world within or without Europe in which Germany had not the deciding voice. Bismarckianism not Bismarck was the model. In the magician's magic more than in the magician himself lay the essential secret of success. Round the Emperor collected the new Germany. Fear, jealousy, ambition, revenge — the human appetites and carnal forces that find their most nourishing environment in the court of a militarist personal monarchy added their unlovely stimulus. Bismarck had made many enemies, whose enmity was all the stronger because it had been so impotent. The Chancellor was not popular at the Federated Courts — neither at Stuttgart, Munich, Dresden, nor Karlsruhe — the soldier ‘demi-gods,’ the Clericals, the anti-Semites, the Lutheran Conservatives, the great industrials were quite ready to salute as they saw the Chancellor depart; the Liberals and Radicals and Socialists had no reason to love the Minister-President, for fate and Bismarck had killed Liberalism. The German people alone was Bismarck's most loyal ally, and the German people through its representatives had been the accomplice in the blunder by which the German people was excluded from deciding in hours of crisis who should govern in their name. In the confidential circles of the monarchy and of the official civil and military bureaucracy — the men who governed and whom Bismarck had taught to regard the Reichstag as the House of Phrases, a statutory but useless appendage to the machinery of Power — it became clear  that the iron Titan of Friedrichsruhe planned for the perpetuity of the Bismarckian autocracy. The House of Bismarck was to hold an unbroken mayoralty of the palace over, rather than under, the House of Hohenzollern. Count Herbert Bismarck, carefully trained in affairs of State, and since 1886 Foreign Secretary under the Chancellor, was obviously destined to sit in the Wilhelmstrasse in his father's chair. Herbert Bismarck had capacity and considerable powers of work. He modelled himself on his father as capable sons of great men are entitled to do. But he endeavoured to prove, not that he was a chip of the old block, but the old block itself by imitating and exaggerating with repellent fidelity all the worst defects in his father's character — his brutality, coarseness, dictatorial insolence, and unscrupulous disregard of the conventions of decent existence. His manners were insufferable and a byword. Men were prepared to endure much from the Chancellor who had genius and achieved miracles. They were not prepared to endure the intolerable from one who was not a genius and had done nothing remarkable (except be outwitted in colonial negotiations by Lords Granville and Rosebery).

During 1888 and 1889 Bismarck was very little in Berlin. Most of his time was spent at Varzin and Friedrichsruhe, and it was at his country seats that the unending visitors found the Chancellor and did their business. His absence from the capital was not wholly the result of old age. In Herbert Bismarck at the Chancery the father had a devoted representative, and the Empire could be governed on Bismarckian lines almost as easily from Friedrichsruhe as from the Wilhelmstrasse. The Chancellor, however, did not realise that under a young  Emperor, bent on probing into every department of State, and leaving an Imperial imprint upon it, the loss of touch with the personalities, the ministers and the forces of politics was a grave disadvantage. Nor did he appreciate the significance of the growing volume of criticism that found in these prolonged absences a substantial reason for a change. Thus by the autumn of 1889 the whole Bismarckian system was being challenged — and by the Emperor. For William II. had inaugurated his reign by a series of travels. He was indefatigable in visiting all parts of Germany and learned much thereby. He went to Petersburg, Vienna, London, Athens, and most remarkable of all, to Constantinople, the first European sovereign to be received as a guest by an Ottoman Sultan. And in these visits what he learned about foreign policy caused him to think and think again. Bismarck resented these continuous journeys, and expressed his resentment in remarks that travelled to the travelling sovereign. They made the Emperor more important than Bismarck, and they did not assist the peculiar methods by which Bismarckian foreign policy was maintained. The old Emperor had been told just as much as the Chancellor thought fit; the young Emperor was insisting on knowing what he thought fit — and he made discoveries, had ideas, and ' interfered.'» (Robertson, 1919, p.478-483).

« ... and the anti-Socialist law was rejected by 169 to 98 votes. All Berlin now knew that it was confronted with a real ‘ Chancellor Crisis.’ Foreign policy, however, was the main cause of the collision. The explicit reports of Russian armaments and movements of troops perturbed Vienna and the German General Staff. The Emperor was determined to convince Austria that Germany was on her side — Bismarck stubbornly resisted any steps to support Austria and thereby alienate Russia: and the Emperor accused him of suppressing information in the Foreign Office. The quarrel over home policy could have been settled, but the conflict over foreign policy cut down to fundamentals. A compromise was impossible. Bismarck's system was in issue. The general election, however, turned on the new Social and Labour policy. Bismarck declined to organise a governmental campaign; he had quarrelled both with the Emperor and his colleagues, and the results were a rout for the cartel. The Conservatives lost 36, the National Liberals, 52 seats; the Liberals gained 30, the Socialists, 24 seats. The cartel of 1887 was dissolved, although the Clerical Centre returned in undiminished strength. Bismarck now made a subtle move. Recognising that the Crown was undermining his presidential pre-eminence by uniting the ministers against him, he demanded that the Cabinet order of September 8, 1852, should be vigorously enforced. This order, requiring all ministers to submit their departmental business to the Minister-President before submitting it to the Crown, practically forbade all independent relations between the ministers and the Crown, and made the Minister-President the sole constitutional avenue of communication with the sovereign. Bismarck had always acted on it, though in the last ten years his frequent absences had required its  relaxation. But such had been his prestige that the relaxation had not involved any real diminution of his authority in all essentials of governmental action. It was different now, when Bismarck realised that the King-Emperor aimed at uniting the ministerial cabinet against its constitutional chief. To the Emperor the order was an odious restriction on his prerogative. It meant that he could only confer with his ministers by and through a Minister-President, hostile to his policy and his ideas, alike in home and foreign affairs. Accordingly he demanded that the Minister-President should advise him to rescind the order. The dispute was a forcible illustration of Bismarck’s warning to the Progressive Party in 1862: ‘ Questions of right (Rechtfragen) in the long run become questions of might (Machtfragen).’ The Emperor told Hohenlohe that February and March were for him ‘ a beastly time,' and that it had become ' a question whether the Bismarck dynasty or the Hohenzollern dynasty should rule.' For Bismarck the issues were simple, but fundamental. His whole system was challenged. As Minister-President he was to be reduced to a position of equality with colleagues placed in complete independence in their relations with himself and with the Crown; a policy in home affairs was to be carried out through the ministers of the Interior and Finance which reversed all his principles; as Chancellor he was expected to carry out a foreign policy in flat contradiction to his convictions and ideas. The close connection between home and foreign policy — the keystone of his system and his success — was to be snapped; alike in the Prussian Landtag and the Imperial Reichstag he would speak without any control over parties or any security that the votes would not be influenced by Imperial intrigues or ministerial pressure, unfavourable to himself. In the daily intercourse with the representatives of foreign governments he could no longer invite their confidence or express his own. Moltke had resigned his post as Chief of the General Staff. The new chief, Waldersee, in Bismarck's judgment was a second-rate soldier and an intriguing politician in the hands of a ‘military ring’ bent on controlling the civil authority. In a word, the Chancellor and Minister-President would have lost all his rights to co-ordinate strategy and policy. The Emperor, he told more than one confidant, ‘ now wishes to reign alone - to be his own Chancellor and Minister-President’ [to put out his great thirst [in satisfying it]]. It was impossible that Bismarck could accept after twenty-seven years of power a position that was a personal humiliation, a reversal of his policy, and a reduction to impotence. ‘ I cannot serve,’ he said, ‘ on my knees ‘ (Ich kann nicht mit Proskynesis dienen). The final touch was given on March 14. Windthorst who wished to consult the Chancellor about the forthcoming session was received ‘ in audience ’ by Bismarck. What passed between them — whether Bismarck suggested a coalition between the shattered Conservatives and the Clericals, cemented by a final repeal of the May Laws — is uncertain and matters little. ' I come,' Windthorst observed, ‘ from the political deathbed of a great man.' The next day the Emperor in person demanded an explanation of what had passed, and Bismarck was dragged from his sleep to wait upon the unexpected visitor. ‘ It was all that Bismarck could do,' the Emperor subsequently related, ' to refrain from throwing the inkpot at my head.' Bismarck was no less certain that the Emperor lost his temper even more completely than he did himself. He refused to give the information demanded. The discussions with Windthorst or other leaders of parties were personal and confidential, and could not be controlled by the Crown, not even if the Crown commanded. According to one source, Bismarck drawing himself up to his full height asserted that he had received Windthorst as a gentleman had the right to receive his friends in his own house, and then he added that ' the orders of the Sovereign stopped at the door of the Princess's drawing-room.' The phrase may be an invention, but it exactly expressed Bismarck's attitude. The memorable conversation was not one between Minister and Emperor, but between the Prussian Junker of Schönhausen, Varzin, and Friedrichsruhe, and the Elector of Brandenburg whom the Junker had made German Emperor. Repeatedly pressed, Bismarck at last submitted his resignation [The great of Mainz shall be deprived of his great dignity]. On March 20 the official Gazette announced that the Emperor had been graciously pleased to accept with profound regret the Chancellor's request to be relieved of his offices, and in return for his ‘ imperishable services ' conferred upon him the title of Duke of Lauenburg and Colonel-General, with the rank of Field-Marshal in the army. Punch, in one of the most famous of its famous cartoons which, curiously enough, delighted both Bismarck and William II., summed up the event with unerring felicity. ‘ The Pilot ' who had steered the ship through so many storms and so many shoals, ' was dropped.' The Emperor henceforward intended to be Captain and Pilot in one. Official Berlin heard the news, expected for so many months, with a sigh of profound relief: but to Germany and the German nation the Emperor's dismissal of the man who summed up German power and represented the Empire in the Councils of the world — the greatest German political figure since the Middle Ages — was received with consternation and genuine sorrow [Those of Cologne shall come to pity him so much]. The old Emperor was dead; Moltke in his ninetieth year was no longer the brain of the German army; and now Bismarck had gone, removed neither by death nor incapacitated by sickness. The German nation knew that in the political sphere there was no one in experience, strength of character, prestige, or intellect fit to tie the latchet of Bismarck's shoe. With March 20, 1890, the heroic age had indeed ended.» (Robertson, 1919, p.488-491)

The great sculpin shall be thrown into the Rhine: « For the first time Bismarck found himself at Varzin and Friedrichsruhe unemployed; yet the absolute leisure for which he had so often craved was framed in political isolation, and proved to be a curse. Had he been thirty years younger he could have flung himself, as he had often contemplated, into the duties of a great landowner, and found in Nature an outlet for his energies and an anodyne for the savage pain that ceaselessly tore his heart. To many statesmen the opportunity, before the final call comes, to remake the broken threads of intellectual interests and ambitions, or simply to sift and test in serene reflection the lessons of life matured by the golden sunshine of the ripening years, has been the boon they have valued most. For them old age, warmed by the recognition of a people's gratitude, has been a fruitful and satisfying climax. Through Leisure with Dignity the men of action have often taught their richest criticism of life. But Bismarck assuredly was not one of these. At seventy-six he could neither resume nor begin a contemplative and intellectual phase; and his ebbing physical forces denied to him the power that he demanded for the mastery of nature. To him life without power and the contest for power lost all its savour. In his love of Nature, with all its keen appreciation of beauty — the dawn on dreaming woods, the blue witchery of distant hills, sunset on lush pastures, a mighty river wave — charmed by the earnest stars — can be detected from his boyhood an unconscious craving to make the beauty his own, and to bend the power it enshrined to his insurgent will. Nature now failed him, just because he was old and Nature was young, and could yearly repeat the miracle of renewing her youth. As he drove or walked on his estates, followed by his dogs as imperious and fierce as himself. Nature seemed to cry at every turn the mocking truth that no longer could he find the healing rest or the balm that had in the past always been the prelude to a mightier toil. In one place, and one alone, — the Reichskanzlerpalais in the Wilhelmstrasse — was the power that would satisfy. His favourite Goethe had said so truly that no young man can be a master. Knowledge, judgment, experience, the secrets of the Higher Command — these were not the prerogatives of youth but of a maturity, fired in the furnace of a life passed in great affairs. Bismarck knew that life had made him a master. Yet away there in Berlin the mastery was torn from him by ingrates and incompetents, mere novices and apprentices, compared with himself. The laceration of his heart poured out the pent-up passion in the revelation of State secrets and journalist denunciation... In 1894 he had suffered in the death of his wife (November 27) the personal bereavement that completed the solitude of these years of unquenchable resentment. The princess was buried at Varzin — the home that he made for her, and which was in itself a record of the achievement in which she had played a share, fully known only to Bismarck himself. Johanna von Puttkamer had been happy in the supreme gifts of love and life to a woman — the right to be the wife and ally of the mightiest German of her and his century; and of that personal union both husband and wife could have said with truth that they had lived with distinction between the torch of marriage and the torch of death: Fiximus insignes inter utramque facem. Varzin never beheld its bereaved master again, though to this day the peasantry tell how in the glades that Bismarck planted the lonely wayfarer in the dusk has suddenly been confronted with the familiar figure, now on horseback, now on foot — erect and superhuman in mien and stature, galloping or striding with the effortless majesty of power from one beloved haunt to another — and sometimes halting to turn on the awed spectator the penetration of eyes, once seen in life, never to be forgotten. The end came on July 30, 1898, at Friedrichsruhe. Nations that have beaten out their path through toil, failure, controversy, revolution, and civil war to the golden summits of victorious ambitions frequently anticipate the verdict of posterity even in the lifetime of the leader and in all the asphyxiating and blinding atmosphere of strife. The Germany of 1890 had already placed Bismarck along with the other three greatest of German figures since the Renaissance, with Luther, Frederick the Great, and Goethe.» (Robertson, 1919, p.508-511).


© Koji Nihei Daijyo, 2015. All rights reserved.


Koji Nihei Daijyo

Author:Koji Nihei Daijyo
We have covered 143 quatrains (§588-§730) concerning the World Events in the 19th century after Napoleonic ages [1821-1900] in the Prophecies of Nostradamus, and 219 in the 20th [1901-2000] (§731-§949).

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