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Hermann and Dorothea - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 1 (Poems) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 1.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
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Sermann and Dorothea
FATE AND SYMPATHY.
“NE’ER have I seen the market and streets so thoroughly empty!
Still as the grave is the town, clear’d out! I verily fancy
Fifty at most of all our inhabitants still may be found there.
People are so inquisitive! All are running and racing
Merely to see the sad train of poor fellows driven to exile.
Down to the causeway now building, the distance nearly a league is,
And they thitherward rush, in the heat and the dust of the noonday.
As for me, I had rather not stir from my place just to stare at
Worthy and sorrowful fugitives, who, with what goods they can carry,
Leaving their own fair land on the further side of the Rhine-stream,
Over to us are crossing, and wander through the delightful
Nooks of this fruitful vale, with all its twistings and windings.
Wife, you did right well to bid our son go and meet them,
Taking with him old linen, and something to eat and to drink too,
Just to give to the poor; the rich are bound to befriend them.
How he is driving along! How well he holds in the horses!
Then the new little carriage looks very handsome; inside it
Four can easily sit, besides the one on the coachbox.
This time he is alone; how easily turns it the corner!”
Thus to his wife the host of the Golden Lion discoursed,
Sitting at ease in the porch of his house adjoining the market.
Then replied as follows the shrewd and sensible hostess:—
“Father, I don’t like giving old linen away, for I find it
Useful in so many ways, ’tis not to be purchas’d for money
Just when it’s wanted. And yet to-day I gladly have given
Many excellent articles, shirts and covers and suchlike;
For I have heard of old people and children walking half-naked.
Will you forgive me, too, for having ransacked your presses?
That grand dressing-gown, cover’d with Indian flowers all over,
Made of the finest calico, lin’d with excellent flannel,
I have despatch’d with the rest; ’tis thin, old, quite out of fashion.”
But the worthy landlord only smiled, and then answer’d:—
“I shall dreadfully miss that ancient calico garment,
Genuine Indian stuff! They’re not to be had any longer.
Well! I shall wear it no more. And your poor husband henceforward
Always must wear a surtout, I suppose, or commonplace jacket,
Always must put on his boots; good-by to cap and to slippers!”
“See,” continu’d his wife, “a few are already returning
Who have seen the procession, which long ago must have pass’d by.
See how dusty their shoes are, and how their faces are glowing!
Each one carries a handkerchief, wiping the sweat from his forehead.
I, for one, wouldn’t hurry and worry myself in such weather
Merely to see such a sight! I’m certain to hear all about it.”
And the worthy father, speaking with emphasis, added:—
“Such fine weather seldom lasts through the whole of the harvest;
And we’re bringing the fruit home, just as the hay we brought lately,
Perfectly dry; the sky is clear, no clouds in the heavens,
And the whole day long delicious breezes are blowing.
Splendid weather I call it! The corn already too ripe is,
And to-morrow begin we to gather the plentiful harvest.”
Whilst he was thus discoursing, the number of men and of women
Crossing the market and going towards home kept ever increasing;
And there return’d amongst others, bringing with him his daughters,
On the other side of the market, their prosperous neighbor,
Going full speed to his newbuilt house, the principal merchant,
Riding inside an open carriage (in Landau constructed).
All the streets were alive; for the town, though small, was well peopled,
Many a factory throve there, and many a business also.
Long sat the excellent couple under the doorway, exchanging
Many a passing remark on the people who happen’d to pass them.
Presently thus to her husband exclaim’d the good-natured hostess:—
“See! Yon comes the minister; with him is walking the druggist:
They’ll be able to give an account of all that has happen’d,
What they witness’d, and many a sight I fear which was painful.”
Both of them came in a friendly manner, and greeted the couple,
Taking their seats on the wooden benches under the doorway,
Shaking the dust from their feet, their handkerchiefs using to fan them.
Presently, after exchanging reciprocal greetings, the druggist
Open’d his mouth, and almost peevishly vented his feelings:—
“What strange creatures men are! They all resemble each other,
All take pleasure in staring, when troubles fall on their neighbors.
Ev’ry one runs to see the flames destroying a dwelling,
Or a poor criminal led in terror and shame to the scaffold.
All the town has been out to gaze at the sorrowing exiles,
None of them bearing in mind that a like misfortune hereafter,
Possibly almost directly, may happen to be their own portion.
I can’t pardon such levity; yet ’tis the nature of all men.”
Thereupon rejoin’d the noble and excellent pastor,
He, the charm of the town, in age scarce more than a stripling:—
(He was acquainted with life, and knew the wants of his hearers,
Fully convinc’d of the worth of the Holy Scriptures, whose mission
Is to reveal man’s fate, his inclinations to fathom;
He was also well read in the best of secular writings.)
“I don’t like to find fault with any innocent impulse
Which in the mind of man Dame Nature has ever implanted;
For what reason and intellect ne’er could accomplish, is often
Done by some fortunate, quite irresistible instinct within him.
If mankind were never by curiosity driven,
Say, could they e’er have found out for themselves the wonderful manner
Things in the world range in order? For first they Novelty look for,
Then with untiring industry seek to discover the Useful,
Lastly they yearn for the Good, which makes them noble and worthy.
All through their youth frivolity serves as their joyous companion,
Hiding the presence of danger, and swiftly effacing the traces
Caus’d by misfortune and grief, as soon as their onslaught is over.
Truly the man’s to be prais’d who, as years roll onward, develops
Out of such glad disposition an intellect settled and steady,—
Who, in good fortune as well as misfortune, strives zealously, nobly;
For what is good he brings forth, replacing whatever is injur’d.”
Then in a friendly voice impatiently spoke thus the hostess:—
“Tell us what you have seen; I am eagerly longing to hear it.”
Then with emphasis answer’d the druggist:—“The terrible stories
Told me to-day will serve for a long time to make me unhappy.
Words would fail to describe the manifold pictures of mis’ry.
Far in the distance saw we the dust, before we descended
Down to the meadows; the rising hillocks hid the procession
Long from our eyes, and little could we distinguish about it.
When, however, we reach’d the road that winds through the valley,
Great was the crowd and the noise of the emigrants mix’d with the wagons.
We unhappily saw poor fellows passing in numbers,
Some of them showing how bitter the sense of their sorrowful flight was,
Some with a feeling of joy at saving their lives in a hurry.
Sad was the sight of the manifold goods and chattels pertaining
Unto a well-manag’d house, which the careful owner’s accustom’d
Each in its proper position to place, and in regular order,
Always ready for use, for all are wanted and useful.—
Sad was the sight of them now, on many a wagon and barrow
Heap’d in thorough confusion, and hurriedly huddled together.
Over a cupboard was plac’d a sieve and a coverlet woollen;
Beds in the kneading troughs lay, and linen over the glasses.
Ah! and the danger appear’d to rob the men of their senses,
Just as in our great fire of twenty years ago happen’d,
When what was worthless they sav’d, and left all the best things behind them.
So on the present occasion with heedless caution they carried
Many valueless chattels, o’erlading the cattle and horses,—
Common old boards and barrels, a birdcage next to a goose-pen.
Women and children were gasping beneath the weight of their bundles,
Baskets and tubs full of utterly useless articles bearing.
(Man is always unwilling the least of his goods to abandon.)
Thus on its dusty way advanced the crowded procession,
All in hopeless confusion. First one, whose cattle were weaker,
Fain would slowly advance, while others would eagerly hasten.
Then there arose a scream of half-crush’d women and children,
And a lowing of cattle, with yelping of dogs intermingled,
And a wailing of aged and sick, all sitting and shaking,
Rang’d in their beds on the top of the wagon too-heavily laden.
Next some lumbering wheel, push’d out of the track by the pressure,
Went to the edge of the roadway; the vehicle fell in the ditch then,
Rolling right over, and throwing, in falling, the men who were in it
Far in the field, screaming loudly, their persons however uninjur’d.
Then the boxes roll’d off and tumbled close to the wagon.
Those who saw them falling full surely expected to see them
Smash’d to pieces beneath the weight of the chests and the presses.
So the wagon lay broken, and those that it carried were helpless,
For the rest of the train went on, and hurriedly pass’d them,
Thinking only of self, and carried away by the current.
So we sped to the spot, and found the sick and the aged
Who, when at home and in bed could scarcely endure their sad ailments,
Lying there on the ground, all sighing and groaning in anguish,
Stifled by clouds of dust, and scorch’d by the fierce sun of summer.”
Then replied in tones of compassion the sensitive landlord:—
“Hermann I trust will find them and give them refreshment and clothing.
I should unwillingly see them; I grieve at the sight of such sorrow.
Touch’d by the earliest news of the sad extent of the suff’ring,
Hastily sent we a trifle from out of our superabundance,
Just to comfort a few, and then our minds were more easy.
Now let us cease to discourse on such a sorrowful subject,
For men’s hearts are easily overshadow’d by terror,
And by care, more odious far to me than misfortune.
Now let us go to a cooler place, the little backparlor;
There the sun never shines, and the walls are so thick that the hot air
Never can enter; and mother shall forthwith bring us a glass each
Full of fine Eighty-three, well fitted to drive away trouble.
This is a bad place for drinking; the flies will hum round the glasses.”
So they all went inside, enjoying themselves in the coolness.
Then in a well-cut flask the mother carefully brought them
Some of that clear, good wine, upon a bright metal waiter
With those greenish rummers, the fittingest goblets for Rhine wine.
So the three sat together, around the glistening polish’d
Circular large brown table,—on massive feet it was planted.
Merrily clink’d together the glasses of host and of pastor,
But the other one thoughtfully held his glass without moving,
And in friendly fashion the host thus ask’d him to join them:—
“Drink, good neighbor, I pray! A merciful God has protected
Us in the past from misfortune, and will protect us in future.
All must confess that since He thought fit to severely chastise us,
When that terrible fire occurr’d, He has constantly bless’d us,
And watch’d over us constantly, just as man is accustom’d
His eye’s precious apple to guard, that dearest of members.
Shall He not for the future preserve us, and be our Protector?
For ’tis in danger we learn to appreciate duly His Goodness.
This so flourishing town, which He built again from its ashes
By the industrious hands of its burghers, and bless’d it so richly,
Will He again destroy it, and render their toil unavailing?”
Cheerfully answer’d the excellent pastor, in accents of mildness:—
“Steadfastly cling to this faith, and cherish such worthy opinions;
In good fortune they’ll make you prudent, and then in misfortune
Well-grounded hopes they’ll supply, and furnish you true consolation.”
Then continued the host, with thoughts full of manhood and wisdom:—
“Oft have I greeted with wonder the rolling flood of the Rhine stream,
When, on my business trav’lling, I’ve once more come to its borders.
Grand has it ever appear’d, exalting my feelings and senses;
But I could never imagine that soon its beautiful margin
Into a wall would be turn’d, to keep the French from our country,
And its wide-spreading bed a ditch to hinder and check them.
So by Nature we’re guarded, we’re guarded by valorous Germans,
And by the Lord we’re guarded; who then would foolishly tremble?
Weary the combatants are, and all things indicate peace soon;
And when at length the long-expected festival’s holden
Here in our church, and the bells chime in with the organ in chorus,
And the trumpets are blowing, the noble Te Deum upraising,
Then on that selfsame day I fain would see, my good pastor,
Our dear Hermann kneel with his bride at the altar before you,
And the glad festival held through the length and breadth of the country
Will henceforward to me be a glad anniversary also!
But I am griev’d to observe that the youth, who is always so active
When he is here at home, abroad is so slow and so timid.
Little at any time cares he to mix with the rest of the people;
Yes, he even avoids young maidens’ society ever,
And the frolicsome dance, that great delight of young people.”
Thus he spake, and then listen’d. The sound of the stamping of horses
Drawing nearer was heard; and then the roll of the carriage,
Which, with impetuous speed, now thunder’d under the gateway.
THEN when into the room the well-built son made his entry,
Straightway with piercing glances the minister eyed him intently,
And with carefulness watch’d his looks and the whole of his bearing,
With an inquiring eye which easily faces deciphers;
Then he smil’d, and with cordial words address’d him as follows:—
“How you are chang’d in appearance, my friend! I never have seen you
Half so lively before; your looks are thoroughly cheerful.
You have return’d quite joyous and merry. You’ve doubtless divided
All of the presents amongst the poor, their blessings receiving.”
Then in calm accents replied the son, with gravity speaking:—
“Whether I’ve laudably acted, I know not; I follow’d the impulse
Of my own heart, as now I’ll proceed to describe with exactness.
Mother, you rummag’d so long, in looking over old pieces,
And in making your choice, that ’twas late when the bundle was ready,
And the wine and the beer were slowly and carefully pack’d up.
When I at length emerg’d at the gate, and came on the highway,
Streams of citizens met I returning, with women and children,
For the train of the exiles had long disappear’d in the distance.
So I quicken’d my pace, and hastily drove to the village
Where I had heard that to-night to rest and to sleep they intended.
Well, as I went on my way, the newly-made causeway ascending,
Suddenly saw I a wagon, of excellent timber constructed,
Drawn by a couple of oxen, the best and the strongest of foreign.
Close beside it there walk’d, with sturdy footsteps, a maiden,
Guiding the two strong beasts with a long kind of staff, which with skill she
Knew how to use, now driving, and now restraining their progress.
When the maiden observ’d me, she quietly came near the horses,
And address’d me as follows:—‘Our usual condition, believe me,
Is not so sad as perchance you might judge from our present appearance.
I am not yet accustom’d to ask for alms from a stranger,
Who so often but gives, to rid himself of a beggar.
But I’m compell’d to speak by necessity. Here on the straw now
Lies the lately-confin’d poor wife of a wealthy landowner,
Whom with much trouble I manag’d to save with oxen and wagon.
We were late in arriving, and scarcely with life she escaped.
Now the newly-born child in her arms is lying, all naked,
And our friends will be able to give them but little assistance,
E’en if in the next village, to which to-night we are going,
We should still find them, although I fear they have left it already.
If you belong to the neighborhood, any available linen
These poor people will deem a most acceptable present.’
“Thus she spake, and wearily rais’d herself the pale patient
Up from the straw and gaz’d upon me, while thus I made answer:—
‘Oft doth a heavenly spirit whisper to kindhearted people,
So that they feel the distress o’er their poorer brethren impending;
For my mother, your troubles foreboding, gave me a bundle
Ready prepar’d for relieving the wants of those who were naked.’
Then I loosen’d the knots of the cord, and the dressing-gown gave her
Which belong’d to my father, and gave her some shirts and some linen,
And she thank’d me with joy and said:—‘The fortunate know not
How ’tis that miracles happen; we only discover in sorrow
God’s protecting finger and hand, extended to beckon
Good men to good. May your kindness to us by Him be requited.’
And I saw the poor patient joyfully handling the linen,
Valuing most of all the soft flannel, the dressing-gown lining.
Then the maid thus address’d her:—‘Now let us haste to the village
Where our friends are resting, to-night intending to sleep there;
There I will straightway attend to whate’er for the infant is needed.’
Then she saluted me too, her thanks most heartily giving,
Drove the oxen, the wagon went on. I linger’d behind them,
Holding my horses rein’d back, divided between two opinions,
Whether to hasten ahead, reach the village, the viands distribute
’Mongst the rest of the people, or give them forthwith to the maiden,
So that she might herself divide them amongst them with prudence.
Soon I made up my mind, and follow’d after her softly,
Overtook her without delay, and said to her quickly:—
‘Maiden, it was not linen alone that my mother provided
And in the carriage plac’d, as clothing to give to the naked,
But she added meat, and many an excellent drink, too;
And I have got quite a stock stow’d away in the boot of the carriage.
Well, I have taken a fancy the rest of the gifts to deposit
In your hands, and thus fulfil to the best my commission;
You will divide them with prudence, whilst I my fate am obeying.’
Then the maiden replied:—‘With faithfulness I will distribute
All your gifts, and the needy shall surely rejoice at your bounty.’
Thus she spake, and I hastily open’d the boot of the carriage,
Took out the hams (full heavy they were) and took out the bread-stuffs,
Flasks of wine and beer, and handed the whole of them over.
Gladly would I have given her more, but empty the boot was.
Straightway she pack’d them away at the feet of the patient, and forthwith
Started again, whilst I hasten’d back to the town with my horses.”
Then when Hermann had ended his story, the garrulous neighbor
Open’d his mouth and exclaim’d:—“I only deem the man happy
Who lives alone in his house in these days of flight and confusion,
Who has neither wife nor children cringing beside him!
I feel happy at present; I hate the title of father;
Care of children and wife in these days would be a sad drawback.
Often have I bethought me of flight, and have gather’d together
All that I deem most precious, the antique gold and the jewels
Worn by my late dear mother, not one of which has been sold yet.
Much indeed is left out, that is not so easily carried.
Even the herbs and the roots, collected with plenty of trouble,
I should be sorry to lose, though little in value they may be.
If the dispenser remains, I shall leave my house in good spirits;
If my ready money is sav’d, and my body, why truly
All is sav’d, for a bachelor easily flies when ’tis needed.”
“Neighbor,” rejoin’d forthwith young Hermann, with emphasis speaking:—
“Altogether I differ, and greatly blame your opinions.
Can that man be deem’d worthy, who both in good and ill fortune
Thinks alone of himself, and knows not the secret of sharing
Sorrows and joys with others, and feels no longing to do so?
I could more easily now than before determine to marry;
Many an excellent maiden needs a husband’s protection,
Many a man a cheerful wife, when sorrow’s before him.”
Smilingly said then the father:—“I’m pleas’d to hear what you’re saying,
Words of such wisdom have seldom been utter’d by you in my presence.”
Then his good mother broke in, in her turn, with vivacity speaking:—
“Son, you are certainly right. We parents set the example.
’Twas not in time of pleasure that we made choice of each other,
And ’twas the saddest of hours that knitted us closely together.
Monday morning,—how well I remember! the very day after
That most terrible fire occurr’d which burn’d down the borough,
Twenty years ago now; the day, like to-day, was a Sunday,
Hot and dry was the weather, and little available water.
All the inhabitants, cloth’d in their festival garments, were walking,
Scatter’d about in the inns and the mills of the neighboring hamlets.
At one end of the town the fire broke out, and the flames ran
Hastily all through the streets, impell’d by the draught they created.
And the barns were consum’d, where all the rich harvest was gather’d.
And all the streets as far as the market; the dwelling-house also
Of my father hard by was destroy’d, as likewise was this one.
Little indeed could we save; I sat the sorrowful night through
On the green of the town, protecting the beds and the boxes.
Finally sleep overtook me, and when by the cool breeze of morning
Which dies away when the sun arises I was awaken’d,
Saw I the smoke and the glow, and the half-consum’d walls and the chimneys.
Then my heart was sorely afflicted; but soon in his glory
Rose the sun more brilliant than ever, my spirits reviving.
Then in haste I arose, impell’d the site to revisit
Where our dwelling had stood, to see if the chickens were living
Which I especially lov’d; for childlike I still was by nature.
But when over the ruins of courtyard and house I was climbing,
Which still smok’d, and saw my dwelling destory’d and deserted,
You came up on the other side, the ruins exploring.
You had a horse shut up in his stall; the still-glowing rafters
Over it lay, and rubbish, and naught could be seen of the creature.
Over against each other we stood, in doubt and in sorrow,
For the wall had fallen which used to sever our courtyards;
And you grasp’d my hand, addressing me softly as follows:—
‘Lizzy, what here are you doing? Away! Your soles you are burning,
For the rubbish is hot, and is scorching my boots which are thicker.’
Then you lifted me up, and carried me off through your courtyard.
There still stood the gateway before the house, with its arch’d roof,
Just as it now is standing, the only thing left remaining.
And you set me down and kiss’d me, and I tried to stop you,
But you presently said, with kindly words full of meaning:—
‘See, my house is destroy’d! Stop here and help me to build it,
I in return will help to rebuild the house of your father.’
I understood you not, till you sent to my father your mother,
And ere long our marriage fulfill’d the troth we soon plighted.
Still to this day I remember with pleasure the half-consum’d rafters,
Still do I see the sun in all his majesty rising,
For on that day I gain’d my husband; the son of my youth too
Gain’d I during that earliest time of the wild desolation.
Therefore commend I you, Hermann, for having with confidence guileless
Turn’d towards marriage your thoughts in such a period of mourning,
And for daring to woo in war and over the ruins.”
Then the father straightway replied, with eagerness speaking:—
“Sensible is your opinion, and true is also the story
Which you have told us, good mother, for so did ev’rything happen.
But what is better is better. ’Tis not the fortune of all men
All their life and existence to find decided beforehand;
All are not doom’d to such troubles as we and others have suffer’d.
Oh, how happy is he whose careful father and mother
Have a house ready to give him, which he can successfully manage!
All beginnings are hard, and most so the landlord’s profession.
Numberless things a man must have, and ev’rything daily
Dearer becomes, so he needs to scrape together more money.
So I am hoping that you, dear Hermann, will shortly be bringing
Home to us a bride possessing an excellent dowry,
For a worthy husband deserves a girl who is wealthy,
And ’tis a capital thing for the wish’d-for wife to bring with her
Plenty of suitable articles stow’d in her baskets and boxes.
Not in vain for years does the mother prepare for her daughter
Stocks of all kinds of linen, both finest and strongest in texture;
Not in vain do god-parents give them presents of silver,
Or the father lay by in his desk a few pieces of money.
For she hereafter will gladden, with all her goods and possessions,
That happy youth who is destined from out of all others to choose her.
Yes! I know how pleasant it makes a house for a young wife,
When she finds her own property plac’d in the rooms and the kitchen,
And when she herself has cover’d the bed and the table.
Only well-to-do brides should be seen in a house, I consider,
For a poor one is sure at last to be scorn’d by her husband,
And he’ll deem her a jade who as jade first appear’d with her bundle.
Men are always unjust, but moments of love are but transient.
Yes, my Hermann, you greatly would cheer the old age of your father
If you soon would bring home a daughter-in-law to console me,
Out of the neighborhood too,—yes, out of yon dwelling,—the green one!
Rich is the man, in truth: his trade and his manufactures
Make him daily richer, for when does a merchant not prosper?
He has only three daughters; the whole of his wealth they’ll inherit.
True the eldest’s already engag’d; but then there’s the second,
And the third, who still (not for long) may be had for the asking.
Had I been in your place, I should not till this time have waited;
Bring home one of the girls, as I brought your mother before you.”
Then, with modesty, answer’d the son his impetuous father:—
“Truly my wish was, like yours, to marry one of the daughters
Of our neighbor. We all, in fact, were brought up together,
Sported in youthful days near the fountain adjoining the market,
And from the rudeness of boys I often manag’d to save them.
But those days have long pass’d; the maidens grew up, and with reason
Stop now at home and avoid the rougher pastimes of childhood.
Well brought up with a vengeance they are! To please you, I sometimes
Went to visit them, just for the sake of olden acquaintance;
But I was never much pleas’d at holding intercourse with them,
For they were always finding fault, and I had to bear it:
First my coat was too long, the cloth too coarse, and the color
Far too common, my hair was cut and curl’d very badly.
I at last was thinking of dressing myself like the shop-boys,
Who are accustom’d on Sundays to show off their persons up yonder,
And round whose coats in summer half-silken tatters are hanging.
But ere long I discover’d they only intended to fool me;
This was very annoying, my pride was offended, but more still
Felt I deeply wounded that they so mistook the good feelings
Which I cherish’d towards them, especially Minnie, the youngest.
Well, I went last Easter, politely to pay them a visit,
And I wore the new coat now hanging up in the closet,
And was frizzl’d and curl’d, like all the rest of the youngsters.
When I enter’d, they titter’d; but that didn’t very much matter.
Minnie sat at the piano, the father was present amongst them,
Pleas’d with his daughter’s singing, and quite in a jocular humor.
Little could I understand of the words in the songs she was singing,
But I constantly heard of Pamina, and then of Tamino,*
And I fain would express my opinion; so when she had ended,
I ask’d questions respecting the text, and who were the persons.
All were silent and smil’d; but presently answer’d the father:—
‘Did you e’er happen, my friend, to hear of Eve or of Adam?’
Then no longer restrain’d they themselves, the girls burst out laughing,
All the boys laugh’d loudly, the old man’s sides appear’d splitting.
In my confusion I let my hat fall down, and the titt’ring
Lasted all the time the singing and playing continu’d.
Then I hasten’d home, asham’d and full of vexation,
Hung up my coat in the closet, and put my hair in disorder
With my fingers, and swore ne’er again to cross o’er their threshold.
And I’m sure I was right; for they are all vain and unloving.
And I hear they’re so rude as to give me the nickname Tamino.”
Then the mother rejoin’d:—“You’re wrong, dear Hermann, to harbor
Angry feelings against the children, for they are but children.
Minnie’s an excellent girl, and has a tenderness for you;
Lately she ask’d how you were. Indeed, I wish you would choose her!”
Then the son thoughtfully answer’d:—“I know not why, but the fact is
My annoyance has graven itself in my mind, and hereafter
I could not bear at the piano to see her, or list to her singing.”
But the father sprang up, and said, in words full of anger:—
“Little comfort you give me, in truth! I always have said it,
When you took pleasure in horses, and cared for nothing but fieldwork;
That which the servants of prosperous people perform as their duty,
You yourself do; meanwhile the father his son must dispense with,
Who in his honor was wont to court the rest of the townsfolk.
Thus with empty hopes your mother early deceiv’d me,
When your reading, and writing, and learning at school ne’er succeeded
Like the rest of the boys, and so you were always the lowest.
This all comes from a youth not possessing a due sense of honor,
And not having the spirit to try to raise his position.
Had my father but cared for me, as I have for you, sir,
Sent me to school betimes, and given me proper instructors,
I should not merely have been the host of the fam’d Golden Lion.”
But the son arose, and approach’d the doorway in silence,
Slowly, and making no noise; but then the father in dudgeon
After him shouted:—“Be off! I know you’re an obstinate fellow!
Go and look after the business; else I shall scold you severely;
But don’t fancy I’ll ever allow you to bring home in triumph
As my daughter-in-law any boorish impudent hussy.
Long have I liv’d in the world, and know how to manage most people,
Know how to entertain ladies and gentlemen, so that they leave me
In good humor, and know how to flatter a stranger discreetly.
But my daughter-in-law must have useful qualities also,
And be able to soften my manifold cares and vexations.
She must also play on the piano, that all the best people
Here in the town may take pleasure in often coming to see us,
As in the house of our neighbor the merchant happens each Sunday.”
Softly the son at these words rais’d the latch, and left the apartment.
THUS did the prudent son escape from the hot conversation,
But the father continu’d precisely as he had begun it:—
“What is not in a man can never come out of him, surely!
Never, I fear, shall I see fulfill’d my dearest of wishes,
That my son should be unlike his father, but better.
What would be the fate of a house or a town, if its inmates
Did not all take pride in preserving, renewing, improving,
As we are taught by the age, and by the wisdom of strangers?
Man is not born to spring out of the ground, just like a mere mushroom,
And to rot away soon in the very place that produc’d him!
Leaving behind him no trace of what he has done in his lifetime.
One can judge by the look of a house of the taste of its master,
As on ent’ring a town, one can judge the authorities’ fitness.
For where the towers and walls are falling, where in the ditches
Dirt is collected, and dirt in every street is seen lying,
Where the stones come out of their groove, and are not replac’d there,
Where the beams are rotting, and vainly the houses are waiting
New supports; that town is sure to be wretchedly manag’d.
For where order and cleanliness reign not supreme in high places,
Then to dirt and delay the citizens soon get accustom’d,
Just as the beggar’s accustom’d to wear his clothes full of tatters.
Therefore I often have wish’d that Hermann would start on his travels
Ere he’s much older, and visit at any rate Strasburg and Frankfort,
And that pleasant town, Mannheim, so evenly built and so cheerful.
He who has seen such large and cleanly cities rests never
Till his own native town, however small, he sees better’d.
Do not all strangers who visit us praise our well-mended gateways,
And the well-whited tower, the church so neatly repair’d too?
Do not all praise our pavements? Our well-arrang’d cover’d-in conduits,
Always well furnish’d with water, utility blending with safety,
So that a fire, whenever it happens, is straightway extinguish’d,—
Is not this the result of that conflagration so dreadful?
Six times in Council I superintended the town’s works, receiving
Hearty thanks and assistance from every well-dispos’d burgher.
How I design’d, follow’d up and insur’d the completion of measures
Worthy men had projected, and afterwards left all unfinish’d!
Finally, every man in the Council took pleasure in working.
All put forth their exertions, and now they have finally settled
That new highway to make, which will join our town with the mainroad.
But I am greatly afraid that the young generation won’t act thus;
Some on the one hand think only of pleasure and trumpery dresses,
Others won’t stir out of doors, and pass all their time by the fireside,
And our Hermann, I fear, will always be one of this last sort.”
Forthwith to him replied the excellent sensible mother:—
“Father, you’re always unjust whenever you speak of your son, and
That is the least likely way to obtain your wishes’ fulfilment;
For we cannot fashion our children after our fancy.
We must have them and love them, as God has given them to us,
Bring them up for the best, and let each do as he listeth.
One has one kind of gift, another possesses another,
Each one employs them, and each in turn in his separate fashion
Good and happy becomes. My Hermann shall not be upbraided,
For I know that he well deserves the wealth he’ll inherit;
He’ll be an excellent landlord, a pattern to burghers and peasants,
And, as I clearly foresee, by no means the last in the Council.
But with your blame and reproaches, you daily dishearten him sadly,
As you have done just now, and make the poor fellow unhappy.”
Then she left the apartment, and after her son hasten’d quickly,
Hoping somewhere to find him, and with her words of affection
Gladden his heart, for he, the excellent son, well deserv’d it.
Smilingly, when she had clos’d the door, continu’d the father:—
“What a wonderful race of people are women and children!
All of them fain would do whatever pleases their fancy,
And we’re only allow’d to praise them and flatter them freely.
Once for all there’s truth in the ancient proverb which tells us:
He who moves not forward, goes backward! a capital saying!”
Speaking with much circumspection, the druggist made answer as follows:—
“What you say, good neighbor, is certainly true, and my plan is
Always to think of improvement, provided though new, ’tis not costly.
But what avails it in truth, unless one has plenty of money,
Active and fussy to be, improving both inside and outside?
Sadly confin’d are the means of a burgher; e’en when he knows it,
Little that’s good he is able to do, his purse is too narrow,
And the sum wanted too great; and so he is always prevented.
I have had plenty of schemes! but then I was terribly frighten’d
At the expense, especially during a time of such danger.
Long had my house smil’d upon me, deck’d out in modish exterior;
Long had my windows with large panes of glass resplendently glitter’d.
Who can compete with a merchant, however, who, rolling in riches,
Also knows the manner in which what is best can be purchas’d?
Only look at the house up yonder, the new one! how handsome
Looks the stucco of those white scrolls on the green-color’d panels!
Large are the plates of the windows; how shining and brilliant the panes are,
Quite eclipsing the rest of the houses that stand in the market!
Yet at the time of the fire, our two were by far the most handsome,
Mine at the sign of the Angel, and yours at the old Golden Lion.
Then my garden was famous throughout the whole country, and strangers
Used to stop as they pass’d and peep through my red-color’d palings
At my beggars of stone, and at my dwarfs, which were painted.
He to whom I gave coffee inside my beautiful grotto,
Which, alas! is now cover’d with dust and tumbling to pieces,
Used to rejoice in the color’d glimmering light of the mussels,
Rang’d in natural order around it, and connoisseurs even
Used with dazzl’d eyes to gaze at the spars and the coral.
Then, in the drawing-room, people look’d with delight on the painting,
Where the prim ladies and gentlemen walk’d in the garden demurely,
And with pointed fingers presented the flowers, and held them.
Ah, if only such things were now to be seen! Little care I
Now to go out; for everything needs to be alter’d and tasteful,
As it is call’d; and white are the benches of wood and the palings;
All things are simple and plain; and neither carving nor gilding
Now are employ’d, and foreign timber is now all the fashion.
I should be only too pleas’d to possess some novelty also,
So as to march with the times, and my household furniture alter.
But we all are afraid to make the least alteration,
For who is able to pay the present charges of workmen?
Lately a fancy possess’d me, the angel Michael, whose figure
Hangs up over my shop, to treat to a new coat of gilding,
And the terrible Dragon, who round his feet is entwining;
But I have left him all brown; as he is; for the cost quite alarm’d me.”
MOTHER AND SON.
THUS the men discoursed together; and meanwhile the mother
Went in search of her son,—at first in front of the dwelling
On the bench of stone, for he was accustom’d to sit there.
When she found him not there, she went to look in the stable,
Thinking perchance he was feeding his splendid horses, the stallions,
Which he had bought when foals, and which he entrusted to no one.
But the servant inform’d her that he had gone to the garden.
Then she nimbly strode across the long double courtyard,
Left the stables behind, and the barns all made of good timber,
Enter’d the garden which stretch’d far away to the walls of the borough,
Walk’d across it, rejoicing to see how all things were growing,
Carefully straighten’d the props, on which the apple tree’s branches,
Heavily-loaded, repos’d, and the weighty boughs of the pear tree,
Took a few caterpillars from off the strong-sprouting cabbage;
For a bustling woman is never idle one moment.
In this manner she came to the end of the long-reaching garden,
Where was the arbor all cover’d with woodbine: she found not her son there,
Nor was he to be seen in any part of the garden,
But she found on the latch the door which out of the arbor
Through the wall of the town had been made by special permission
During their ancestor’s time, the worthy old burgomaster.
So she easily stepp’d across the dry ditch at the spot where
On the highway abutted their well-enclos’d excellent vineyard,
Rising steeply upwards, its face tow’rd the sun turn’d directly.
Up the hill she proceeded, rejoicing, as farther she mounted,
At the size of the grapes, which scarcely were hid by the foliage.
Shady and well-cover’d in, the middle walk at the top was,
Which was ascended by steps of rough flat pieces constructed.
And within it were hanging fine chasselas and muscatels also,
And a reddish-blue grape, of quite an exceptional bigness,
All with carefulness planted, to give to their guests after dinner.
But with separate stems the rest of the vineyard was planted,
Smaller grapes producing, from which the finest wine made is.
So she constantly mounted, enjoying in prospect the autumn,
And the festal day, when the neighborhood met with rejoicing,
Picking and treading the grapes, and putting the must in the wine-vats.
Every corner and nook resounding at night with the fireworks,
Blazing and cracking away, due honor to pay to the harvest.
But she uneasy became, when she in vain had been calling
Twice and three times her son, and when the sole answer that reach’d her
Came from the garrulous echo which out of the town towers issu’d.
Strange it appear’d to have to seek him; he never went far off,
(As he before had told her) in order to ward off all sorrow
From his dear mother, and her forebodings of coming disaster.
But she still was expecting upon the highway to find him,
For the doors at the bottom, like those at the top, of the vineyard
Stood wide open; and so at length she enter’d the broad field
Which, with its spreading expanse, o’er the whole of the hill’s back extended.
On their own property still she proceeded, greatly rejoicing
At their own crops, and at the corn which nodded so bravely,
Over the whole of the field in golden majesty waving.
Then on the border between the fields, she follow’d the footpath,
Keeping her eye on the pear tree fix’d, the big one, which standing
Perch’d by itself on the top of the hill, their property bounded.
Who had planted it, no one knew; throughout the whole country
Far and wide was it visible; noted also its fruit was.
Under its shadow the reaper ate his dinner at noonday,
And the herdsman was wont to lie, when tending his cattle.
Benches made of rough stones and of turf were plac’d all about it.
And she was not mistaken; there sat her Hermann and rested;
On his arm he was leaning, and seem’d to be looking ’cross country
Tow’rds the mountains beyond; his back was turn’d to his mother.
Softly creeping up, she lightly tapp’d on his shoulder;
And he hastily turn’d; she saw that his eyes full of tears were.
“Mother,” he said in confusion:—“You greatly surprise me!” and quickly
Wip’d he away his tears, the noble and sensitive youngster.
“What! You are weeping, my son?” the startled mother continu’d:—
“That is indeed unlike you! I never before saw you crying!
Say, what has sadden’d your heart? What drives you to sit here all lonely
Under the shade of the pear tree? What is it that makes you unhappy?”
Then the excellent youth collected himself, and made answer:—
“Truly that man can have no heart, but a bosom of iron,
Who no sympathy feels for the wants of unfortunate exiles;
He has no sense in his head who, in times of such deep tribulation,
Has no concern for himself or for his country’s well-being.
What I to-day have seen and heard has stirr’d up my feelings;
Well, I have come up here, and seen the beautiful, spreading
Landscape, which in fruitful hills to our sight is presented,—
Seen the golden fruit of the sheaves all nodding together,
And a plentiful crop of fruit, full garners foreboding.
But, alas, how near is the foe! By the Rhine’s flowing waters
We are protected indeed; but what are rivers and mountains
To such a terrible nation, which hurries along like a tempest!
For they summon together the young and the old from all quarters,
Rushing wildly along, while the multitude little is caring
Even for death; when one falls, his place is straight fill’d by another.
Ah! and can Germans dare to remain at home in their dwellings,
Thinking perchance to escape from the widely-threat’ning disaster?
Dearest mother, I tell you that I to-day am quite sorry
That I was lately excus’d, when they selected the fighters
Out of the townsfolk. ’Tis true I’m an only son, and moreover
Large is our inn, and our business also is very important;
Were it not better however for me to fight in the vanguard
On the frontier, than here to await disaster and bondage?
Yes, my spirit has told me, and in my innermost bosom
Feel I courage and longing to live and die for my country,
And to others to set an example worthy to follow.
Oh, of a truth, if the strength of the German youths was collected
On the frontier, all bound by a vow not to yield to the stranger,
He on our noble soil should never set foot, or be able
Under our eyes to consume the fruits of the land, or to issue
Orders unto our men, or despoil our women and maidens!
See, good mother, within my inmost heart I’ve determin’d
Soon and straightway to do what seems to me right and becoming;
For the man who thinks long, not always chooses what best is.
See, I will not return to the house, but will go from here straightway
Into the town, and there will place at the fighters’ disposal
This stout arm and this heart, to serve, as I best can, my country.
Then let my father say whether feelings of honor are stirring
In my bosom or not, and whether I yearn to mount upwards.”
Then with significance answer’d his good and sensible mother,
Shedding tears in silence, which easily rose in her eyelids:—
“Son, what has wrought so strange a change in your temper and feelings,
That you freely and openly speak to your mother no longer,
As you till yesterday did, nor tell her truly your wishes?
If another had heard you speaking, he doubtless would praise you
Highly, and deem your new resolution as worthy of honor,
Being deceiv’d by your words, and by your manner of speaking.
I however can only blame you. I know you much better.
You are concealing your heart, and very diff’rent your thoughts are;
For I am sure you care not at all for drum and for trumpet,
Nor, to please the maidens, care you to wear regimentals.
For, though brave you may be, and gallant, your proper vocation
Is to remain at home, the property quietly watching.
Therefore tell me truly: What means this sudden decision?”
Earnestly answer’d the son:—“You are wrong, dear mother, one day is
Unlike another. The youth soon ripens into his manhood.
Ofttimes he ripens better to action in silence, than living
That tumultuous noisy life which ruins so many.
And though silent I have been, and am, a heart has been fashion’d
Inside my bosom, which hates whatever unfair and unjust is,
And I am able right well to discriminate secular matters.
Work moreover my arms and my feet has mightily strengthen’d.
All that I tell you is true; I boldly venture to say so.
And yet, mother, you blame me with reason; you’ve caught me employing
Words that are only half true, and that serve to conceal my true feelings.
For I must need confess, it is not the advent of danger
Calls me away from my father’s house, nor a resolute purpose
Useful to be to my country, and dreaded to be by the foeman.
Words alone it was that I utter’d,—words only intended
Those deep feelings to hide, which within my breast are contending.
And now leave me, my mother! For as in my bosom I cherish
Wishes that are but vain, my life will be to no purpose.
For I know that the Unit who makes a self-sacrifice, only
Injures himself, unless all endeavor the Whole to accomplish.”
“Now continue,” replied forthwith his sensible mother:—
“Tell me all that has happen’d, the least as well as the greatest;
Men are always hasty, and only remember the last thing,
And the hasty are easily forc’d from the road by obstructions.
But a woman is skilful, and full of resources, and scorns not
By-roads to traverse when needed, well-skill’d to accomplish her purpose.
Tell me then all, and why you are stirr’d by such violent feelings
More than I ever have seen, while the blood is boiling within you,
And from your eyes the tears against your will fain would fall now.”
Then the youth gave way to his sorrow, and burst into weeping,
Weeping aloud on the breast of his mother, and softly replying:—
“Truly, my father’s words to-day have wounded me sadly,
Never have I deserv’d at his hands such treatment,—no, never!
For to honor my parents was always my wish from my childhood,
No one ever appear’d so prudent and wise as my parents,
Who in the darker days of childhood carefully watch’d me.
Much indeed it has been my lot to endure from my playmates,
When with their knavish pranks they used to embitter my temper.
Often I little suspected the tricks they were playing upon me:
But if they happen’d to ridicule father, whenever on Sundays
Out of church he came with his slow deliberate footsteps,
If they laugh’d at the strings of his cap, and his dressing-gown’s flowers,
Which he in stately wise wore, and to-day at length has discarded,
Then in a fury I clench’d my fist, and, storming and raging,
Fell upon them and hit and struck with terrible onslaught,
Heedless where my blows fell. With bleeding noses they halloo’d,
And could scarcely escape from the force of my blows and my kicking.
Then, as in years I advanc’d, I had much to endure from my father,
Who, in default of others to blame, would often abuse me,
When at the Council’s last sitting his anger perchance was excited,
And I the penalty paid of the squabbles and strife of his colleagues.
You yourself have oft pitied me; I endur’d it with patience,
Always rememb’ring the much-to-be-honor’d kindness of parents,
Whose only thought is to swell for our sakes their goods and possessions,
And who deprive themselves of much, to save for their children.
But, alas, not saving alone, for enjoyment hereafter,
Constitutes happiness; no, not heaps of gold or of silver,
Neither field upon field, however compact the estate be.
For the father grows old, and his son at the same time grows older,
Feeling no joy in To-day, and full of care for To-morrow.
Now look down from this height, and see how beauteous before us
Lies the fair rich expanse, with vineyard and gardens at bottom;
There are the stables and barns, and the rest of the property likewise;
There I also descry the back of our house, in the gables
Of the roof may be seen the window of my small apartment.
When I remember the time when I used to look out for the moon there
Half through the night, or perchance at morning awaited the sunrise,
When with but few hours of healthy sleep I was fully contented,
Ah, how lonely do all things appear! My chamber, the court and
Garden, the beautiful field which spreads itself over the hillside;
All appear but a desert to me: I still am unmarried!”
Then his good mother answer’d his speech in a sensible manner:—
“Son, your wish to be able to lead your bride to her chamber,
Turning the night to the dearest and happiest half of your lifetime,
Making your work by day more truly free and unfetter’d,
Cannot be greater than that of your father and mother. We always
Urg’d you,—commanded, I even might say,—to choose some fair maiden.
But I know full well, and my heart has told me already:—
If the right hour arrives not, or if the right maiden appears not
Instantly when they are sought for, man’s choice is thrown in confusion,
And he is driven by fear to seize what is counterfeit only.
If I may tell you, my son, your choice already is taken,
For your heart is smitten, and sensitive more than is usual.
Answer me plainly, then, for my spirit already has told me:
She whom now you have chosen is that poor emigrant maiden!”
“Yes, dear mother, you’re right!” the son with vivacity answer’d:—
“Yes, it is she! And unless this very day I conduct her
Home as my bride, she will go on her way and escape me forever,
In the confusion of war, and in moving backwards and forwards.
Mother, then before my eyes will in vain be unfolded
All our rich estate, and each year henceforward be fruitful.
Yes, the familiar house and the garden will be my aversion.
Ah, and the love of my mother no comfort will give to my sorrow,
For I feel that by Love each former bond must be loosen’d,
When her own bonds she knits; ’tis not the maiden alone who
Leaves her father and mother behind, when she follows her husband.
So it is with the youth; no more he knows mother and father,
When he beholds the maiden, the only belov’d one, approaching.
Therefore let me go hence, to where desperation may lead me,
For my father already has spoken in words of decision,
And his house no longer is mine, if he shuts out the maiden
Whom alone I would fain take home as my bride from henceforward.”
Then the excellent sensible mother answer’d with quickness:—
“Men are precisely like rocks when they stand oppos’d to each other!
Proud and unyielding, the one will never draw near to the other.
Neither will suffer his tongue to utter the first friendly accent.
Therefore I tell you, my son, a hope still exists in my bosom,
If she is worthy and good, he will give his consent to your marriage,
Poor though she be, and although with disdain he refus’d you the poor thing.
For in his hot-headed fashion he utters many expressions
Which he never intends; and so will accept the refus’d one.
But he requires kind words, and has a right to require them,
For your father he is; his anger is all after dinner,
When he more eagerly speaks, and questions the reasons of others,
Meaning but little thereby; the wine then excites all the vigor
Of his impetuous will, and prevents him from giving due weight to
Other people’s opinions; he hears and he feels his own only.
But when evening arrives, the tone of the many discourses
Which his friends and himself hold together is very much alter’d.
Milder becomes he as soon as his liquor’s effects have pass’d over,
And he feels the injustice his eagerness did unto others.
Come, we will venture at once! Success the reward is of boldness,
And we have need of the friends who now have assembled around him.
Most of all we shall want the help of our excellent pastor.”
Thus she eagerly spoke, and leaving the stone that she sat on,
Also lifted her son from his seat. He willingly follow’d,
And they descended in silence, revolving the weighty proposal.
BUT the Three, as before, were still sitting and talking together,
With the landlord, the worthy divine, and also the druggist,
And their conversation still concern’d the same subject,
Which in every form they had long been discussing together.
Full of noble thoughts, the excellent pastor continu’d:—
“I can’t contradict you. I know ’tis the duty of mortals
Ever to strive for improvement; and, as we may see, they strive also
Ever for that which is higher, at least what is new they seek after,
But don’t hurry too fast! For combin’d with these feelings, kind Nature
Also has given us pleasure in dwelling on that which is ancient,
And in clinging to that to which we have long been accustom’d.
Each situation is good that’s accordant to nature and reason.
Many things man desires, and yet he has need of but little;
For but short are the days, and confin’d is the lot of a mortal.
I can never blame the man who, active and restless,
Hurries along, and explores each corner of earth and the ocean
Boldly and carefully, while he rejoices at seeing the profits
Which round him and his family gather themselves in abundance.
But I also duly esteem the peaceable burgher,
Who with silent steps his paternal inheritance paces,
And watches over the earth, the seasons carefully noting.
’Tis not every year that he finds his property alter’d;
Newly-planted trees cannot stretch out their arms tow’rds the heavens
All in a moment, adorn’d with beautiful buds in abundance.
No, a man has need of patience, he also has need of
Pure unruffl’d tranquil thoughts, and an intellect honest.
For to the nourishing earth few seeds at a time he entrusteth,
Few are the creatures he keeps at a time, with a view to their breeding,
For what is useful alone remains the first thought of his lifetime.
Happy the man to whom Nature a mind thus attun’d may have given!
’Tis by him that we all are fed. And happy the townsman
Of the small town who unites the vocations of town and of country.
He is exempt from the pressure by which the poor farmer is worried,
Is not perplex’d by the citizens’ cares and soaring ambition,
Who, with limited means,—especially women and maidens,—
Think of nothing but aping the ways of the great and the wealthy.
You should therefore bless your son’s disposition so peaceful,
And the like-minded wife whom we soon may expect him to marry.”
Thus he spoke. At that moment the mother and son stood before them.
By the hand she led him and plac’d him in front of her husband:—
“Father,” she said, “how often have we, when talking together,
Thought of that joyful day in the future, when Hermann, selecting
After long waiting his bride, at length would make us both happy!
All kinds of projects we form’d; designing first one, then another
Girl as his wife, as we talk’d in the manner that parents delight in.
Now the day has arriv’d; and now has his bride been conducted
Hither and shown him by Heaven; his heart at length has decided.
Were we not always saying that he should choose for himself, and
Were you not lately wishing that he might feel for a maiden
Warm and heartfelt emotions? And now has arriv’d the right moment!
Yes, he has felt and has chosen, and like a man has decided.
That fair maiden it is, the stranger whom he encounter’d.
Give her him; else he’ll remain—he has sworn it—unmarried forever.”
And the son added himself:—“My father, Oh, give her! My heart has
Chosen purely and truly; she’ll make you an excellent daughter.”
But the father was silent. Then suddenly rose the good pastor,
And address’d him as follows:—“One single moment’s decisive
Both of the life of a man, and of the whole of his future.
After lengthen’d reflection, each resolution made by him
Is but the work of a moment; the prudent alone seize the right one.
Nothing more dangerous is, in making a choice, than revolving
First this point and then that, and so confusing the feelings.
Pure is Hermann’s mind; from his youth I have known him; he never,
Even in boyhood, was wont to extend his hand hither and thither.
What he desir’d was suitable to him; he held to it firmly.
Be not astonish’d and scared because there appears on a sudden
What you so long have desir’d. ’Tis true the appearance at present
Bears not the shape of the wish as you in your mind had conceiv’d it.
For our wishes conceal the thing that we wish for; our gifts too
Come from above upon us, each clad in its own proper figure.
Do not now mistake the maiden who has succeeded
First in touching the heart of your good wise son, whom you love so.
Happy is he who is able to clasp the hand of his first love,
And whose dearest wish is not doom’d to pine in his bosom!
Yes, I can see by his face, already his fate is decided;
True affection converts the youth to a man in a moment.
He little changeable is; I fear me, if this you deny him,
All the fairest years of his life will be chang’d into sorrow.
Then in prudent fashion the druggist, who long had been wanting
His opinion to give, rejoin’d in the following manner:—
“This is just a case when the middle course is the wisest!
‘Hasten slowly,’ you know, was the motto of Cæsar Augustus.
I am always ready to be of use to my neighbors,
And to turn to their profit what little wits I can boast of.
Youth especially needs the guidance of those who are older.
Let me then depart; I fain would prove her, that maiden,
And will examine the people ’mongst whom she lives, and who know her.
I am not soon deceiv’d; I know how to rate their opinions.”
Then forthwith replied the son, with eagerness speaking:—
“Do so, neighbor, and go, and make your inquiries. However,
I should greatly prefer that our friend, the pastor, went with you;
Two such excellent men are witnesses none can find fault with.
O my father! the maiden no vagabond is, I assure you,
No mere adventurer, wand’ring about all over the country,
And deceiving the inexperienc’d youths with her cunning;
No! the harsh destiny link’d with this war, so destructive of all things,
Which is destroying the world, and already has wholly uprooted
Many a time-honor’d fabric, has driven the poor thing to exile.
Are not brave men of noble birth now wand’ring in mis’ry?
Princes are fleeing disguis’d, and monarchs in banishment living.
Ah, and she also herself, the best of her sisters, is driven
Out of her native land; but her own misfortunes forgetting,
Others she seeks to console, and, though helpless, is also most helpful.
Great are the woes and distress which over the earth’s face are brooding,
But may happiness not be evok’d from out of this sorrow?
May not I, in the arms of my bride, the wife I have chosen,
Even rejoice at the war, as you at the great conflagration?”
Then replied the father, and open’d his mouth with importance:—
“Strangely indeed, my son, has your tongue been suddenly loosen’d,
Which for years has stuck in your mouth, and mov’d there but rarely!
I to-day must experience that which threatens each father:
How the ardent will of a son a too gentle mother
Willingly favors, whilst each neighbor is ready to back him,
Only provided it be at the cost of a father or husband!
But what use would it be to resist so many together?
For I see that defiance and tears will otherwise greet me.
Go and prove her, and in God’s name then hasten to bring her
Home as my daughter; if not, he must think no more of the maiden.”
Thus spake the father. The son exclaim’d with jubilant gesture:—
“Ere the ev’ning arrives, you shall have the dearest of daughters,
Such as the man desires whose bosom is govern’d by prudence;
And I venture to think the good creature is fortunate also.
Yes, she will ever be grateful that I her father and mother
Have restor’d her in you, as sensible children would wish it.
But I will loiter no longer; I’ll straightway harness the horses,
And conduct our friends on the traces of her whom I love so,
Leave the men to themselves and their own intuitive wisdom,
And be guided alone by their decision,—I swear it,—
And not see the maiden again, until she my own is.”
Then he left the house; meanwhile the others were eagerly
Settling many a point, and the weighty matter debating.
Hermann sped to the stable forthwith, where the spirited stallions
Tranquilly stood and with eagerness swallow’d the pure oats before them,
And the well-dried hay, which was cut from the best of their meadows.
Then in eager haste in their mouths the shining bits plac’d he,
Quickly drew the harness through the well-plated buckles,
And then fasten’d the long broad reins in proper position,
Led the horses out in the yard, where already the carriage,
Easily mov’d along by its pole, had been push’d by the servant.
Then they restrain’d the impetuous strength of the fast-moving horses,
Fastening both with neat-looking ropes to the bar of the carriage.
Hermann seiz’d his whip, took his seat, and drove to the gateway.
When in the roomy carriage his friends had taken their places,
Swiftly he drove away, and left the pavement behind them,
Left behind the walls of the town and the clean-looking towers.
Thus sped Hermann along, till he reach’d the familiar highway,
Not delaying a moment, and galloping uphill and downhill.
When however at length the village steeple descried he,
And not far away lay the houses surrounded by gardens,
He began to think it was time to hold in the horses.
By the time-honor’d gloom of noble lime trees o’ershadow’d,
Which for many a century past on the spot had been rooted,
Stood there a green and spreading grass-plot in front of the village,
Cover’d with turf, for the peasants and neighboring townsmen a playground.
Scoop’d out under the trees, to no great depth, stood a fountain.
On descending the steps, some benches of stone might be seen there,
Rang’d all around the spring, which ceaselessly well’d forth its waters,
Cleanly, enclos’d by a low wall all round, and convenient to draw from.
Hermann then determin’d beneath the shadow his horses
With the carriage to stop. He did so, and spoke then as follows:—
“Now, my friends, get down, and go by yourselves to discover
Whether the maiden is worthy to have the hand which I offer.
I am convinc’d that she is; and you’ll bring me no new or strange story:
Had I to manage alone, I would straightway go off to the village,
And in few words should my fate by the charming creature be settled.
Her you will easily recognize ’mongst all the rest of the people,
For her appearance is altogether unlike that of others.
But I will now describe the modest dress she is wearing:—
First a bodice red her well-arch’d bosom upraises,
Prettily tied, while black are the stays fitting closely around her.
Then the seams of the ruff she has carefully plaited and folded,
Which, with modest grace, her chin so round is encircling.
Free and joyously rises her head with its elegant oval,
Strongly round bodkins of silver her back-hair is many times twisted;
Her blue well-plaited gown begins from under her bodice,
And as she walks envelops her well-turn’d ankles completely.
But I have one thing to say, and this must expressly entreat you:
Do not speak to the maiden, and let not your scheme be discover’d.
But inquire of others, and hearken to all that they tell you.
When you have learn’d enough to satisfy father and mother,
Then return to me straight, and we’ll settle future proceedings.
This is the plan which I have matur’d, while driving you hither.”
Thus he spoke, and the friends forthwith went on to the village,
Where, in gardens and barns and houses, the multitude crowded;
All along the broad road the numberless carts were collected,
Men were feeding the lowing cattle and feeding the horses.
Women on every hedge the linen were carefully drying,
Whilst the children in glee were splashing about in the streamlet.
Forcing their way through the wagons, and past the men and the cattle,
Walk’d the ambassador spies, looking well to the righthand and lefthand,
Hoping somewhere to see the form of the well-describ’d maiden;
But wherever they look’d, no trace of the girl they discover’d.
Presently denser became the crowd. Round some of the wagons
Men in a passion were quarreling, women also were screaming.
Then of a sudden approach’d an aged man with firm footstep
Marching straight up to the fighters; and forthwith was hush’d the contention
When he bade them be still, and with fatherly earnestness threaten’d.
“Are we not yet,” he exclaim’d, “by misfortune so knitted together
As to have learn’d at length the art of reciprocal patience
And toleration, though each cannot measure the actions of others?
Prosperous men indeed may quarrel! Will sorrow not teach you
How no longer as formerly you should quarrel with brethren?
Each should give way to each other, when treading the soil of the stranger,
And, as you hope for mercy yourselves, you should share your possessions.”
Thus the man address’d them, and all were silent. In peaceful
Humor the reconcil’d men look’d after their cattle and wagons.
When the pastor heard the man discourse in this fashion,
And the foreign magistrate’s peaceful nature discover’d,
He approach’d him in turn, and used this significant language:—
“Truly, father, when nations are living in days of good fortune,
Drawing their food from the earth, which gladly opens its treasures,
And its wish’d-for gifts each year and each month is renewing,
Then all matters go smoothly; each thinks himself far the wisest
And the best, and so they exist by the side of each other,
And the most sensible man no better than others is reckon’d;
For the world moves on, as if by itself and in silence.
But when distress unsettles our usual manner of living,
Pulls down each time-honor’d fabric, and roots up the seed in our gardens,
Drives the man and his wife far away from the home they delight in,
Hurries them off in confusion through days and nights full of anguish,
Ah! then look we around in search of the man who is wisest,
And no longer in vain he utters his words full of wisdom.
Tell me whether you be these fugitives’ magistrate, father,
Over whose minds you appear to possess such an influence soothing?
Aye, to-day I could deem you one of the leaders of old time,
Who through wastes and through deserts conducted the wandering people;
I could imagine ’twas Joshua I am addressing, or Moses.”
Then with solemn looks the magistrate answer’d as follows:—
“Truly the present times resemble the strangest of old times,
Which are preserv’d in the pages of history, sacred or common.
He in these days who has liv’d to-day and yesterday only,
Many a year has liv’d, events so crowd on each other.
When I reflect back a little, a gray old age I could fancy
On my head to be lying, and yet my strength is still active.
Yes, we people in truth may liken ourselves to those others
Unto whom in a fiery bush appear’d, in a solemn
Moment, the Lord our God; in fire and clouds we behold him.”
When the pastor would fain continue to speak on this subject,
And was anxious to learn the fate of the man and his party,
Quickly into his ear his companion secretly whisper’d:—
“Speak for a time with the magistrate, turning your talk on the maiden,
Whilst I wander about, endeavoring to find her. Directly
I am successful, I’ll join you again.” Then nodded the pastor,
And the spy went to seek her, in barns and through hedges and gardens.
WHEN the pastor ask’d the foreign magistrate questions,
What the people had suffer’d, how long from their homes they had wander’d,
Then the man replied:—“By no means short are our sorrows,
For we have drunk the bitters of many a long year together,
All the more dreadful, because our fairest hopes have been blighted.
Who can deny that his heart beat wildly and high in his bosom,
And that with purer pulses his breast more freely was throbbing,
When the newborn sun first rose in the whole of its glory,
When we heard of the right of man to have all things in common,
Heard of noble equality, and of inspiriting freedom!
Each man then hop’d to attain new life for himself, and the fetters
Which had encircled many a land appear’d to be broken,
Fetters held by the hands of sloth and selfish indulgence.
Did not all nations turn their gaze, in those days of emotion,
Tow’rds the world’s capital, which so many a long year had been so,
And then more than ever deserv’d a name so distinguish’d?
Were not the men, who first proclaim’d so noble a message,
Names that are worthy to rank with the highest the sun ever shone on?
Did not each give to mankind his courage and genius and language?
“And we also, as neighbors, at first were warmly excited.
Presently after began the war, and the train of arm’d Frenchmen
Nearer approach’d; at first they appear’d to bring with them friendship,
And they brought it in fact; for all their souls were exalted.
And the gay trees of liberty ev’rywhere gladly they planted,
Promising unto each his own, and the government long’d for.
Greatly at this was youth, and greatly old age was delighted,
And the joyous dance began round the newly-rais’d standards.
In this manner the overpow’ring Frenchmen soon conquer’d
First the minds of the men, with their fiery lively proceedings,
Then the hearts of the women, with irresistible graces.
Even the strain of the war, with its many demands, seem’d but trifling,
For before our eyes the distance by hope was illumin’d,
Luring our gaze far ahead into paths now first open’d before us.
“Oh, how joyful the time, when with his bride the glad bridegroom
Whirls in the dance, awaiting the day that will join them forever!
But more glorious far was the time when the Highest of all things
Which man’s mind can conceive, close by and attainable seemed.
Then were the tongues of all loosen’d, and words of wisdom and feeling
Not by graybeards alone, but by men and by striplings were utter’d.
“But the heavens soon clouded became. For the sake of the mast’ry
Strove a contemptible crew, unfit to accomplish good actions.
Then they murder’d each other, and took to oppressing their new-found
Neighbors and brothers, and sent on missions whole herds of self-seekers;
And the superiors took to carousing and robbing by wholesale,
And the inferiors down to the lowest carous’d and robb’d also.
Nobody thought of aught else than having enough for to-morrow.
Terrible was the distress, and daily increas’d the oppression.
None the cry understood, that they of the day were the masters.
Then even temperate minds were attack’d by sorrow and fury;
Each one reflected, and swore to avenge all the injuries suffer’d,
And to atone for the bitter loss of hopes twice defrauded.
Presently Fortune declar’d herself on the side of the Germans,
And the French were compell’d to retreat by forc’d marches before them.
Ah! the sad fate of the war we then for the first time experienc’d.
For the victor is kind and humane, at least he appears so,
And he spares the man he has vanquish’d, as if he his own were,
When he employs him daily, and with his property helps him.
But the fugitive knows no law; he wards off death only,
And both quickly and recklessly all that he meets with, consumes he.
Then his mind becomes heated apace; and soon desperation
Fills his heart, and impels him to all kinds of criminal actions.
Nothing then holds he respected, he steals it. With furious longing
On the woman he rushes; his lust becomes awful to think of.
Death all around him he sees, his last minutes in cruelty spends he,
Wildly exulting in blood, and exulting in howls and in anguish.
“Then in the minds of our men arose a terrible yearning
That which was lost to avenge, and that which remain’d to defend still.
All of them seiz’d upon arms, lur’d on by the fugitives’ hurry,
By their pale faces, and by their shy, uncertain demeanor.
There was heard the sound of alarm-bells unceasingly ringing,
And the approach of danger restrain’d not their violent fury.
Soon into weapons were turn’d the implements peaceful of tillage,
And with dripping blood the scythe and the pitchfork were cover’d.
Every foeman without distinction was ruthlessly slaughter’d,
Fury was ev’rywhere raging, and artful, cowardly weakness.
May I never again see men in such wretched confusion!
Even the raging wild beast is a better object to gaze on.
Ne’er let them speak of freedom, as if themselves they could govern!
All the evil which Law has driven far back in the corner
Seems to escape as soon as the fetters which bound it are loosen’d.”
“Excellent man,” replied the pastor, with emphasis speaking:—
“If you’re mistaken in man, ’tis not for me to reprove you.
Evil enough have you suffer’d indeed from his cruel proceedings!
Would you but look back, however, on days so laden with sorrow,
You would yourself confess how much that is good you have witness’d,
Much that is excellent, which remains conceal’d in the bosom
Till by danger ’tis stirr’d, and till necessity makes man
Show himself as an angel, a tutelar God unto others.”
Then with a smile replied the worthy old magistrate, saying:—
“Your reminder is wise, like that which they give to the suff’rer
Who has had his dwelling burn’d down, that under the ruins
Gold and silver are lying, though melted and cover’d with ashes.
Little, indeed, it may be, and yet that little is precious,
And the poor man digs it up, and rejoices at finding the treasure.
Gladly, therefore, I turn my thoughts to those few worthy actions
Which my memory still is able to dwell on with pleasure.
Yes, I will not deny it, I saw late foemen uniting
So as to save the town from harm; I saw with devotion
Parents, children and friends impossible actions attempting,
Saw how the youth of a sudden became a man, how the graybeard
Once more was young, how the child as a stripling appear’d in a moment.
Aye, and the weaker sex, as people commonly call it,
Show’d itself brave and daring, with presence of mind all-unwonted.
Let me now, in the first place, describe a deed of rare merit
By a high-spirited girl accomplish’d, an excellent maiden,
Who in the great farmhouse remain’d behind with the servants,
When the whole of the men had departed, to fight with the strangers.
Well, there fell on the court a troop of vagabond scoundrels,
Plund’ring and forcing their way inside the rooms of the women.
Soon they cast their eyes on the forms of the grown-up fair maiden,
And of the other dear girls, in age little more than mere children.
Hurried away by raging desire, unfeelingly rush’d they
On the trembling band, and on the highspirited maiden.
But she instantly seiz’d the sword from the side of a ruffian,
Hew’d him down to the ground; at her feet straight fell he, all bleeding.
Then with doughty strokes the maidens she bravely deliver’d,
Wounded four more of the robbers; with life, however, escap’d they.
Then she lock’d up the court, and, arm’d still, waited for succor.”
When the pastor heard the praise of the maiden thus utter’d,
Feelings of hope for his friend forthwith arose in his bosom,
And he prepar’d to ask what had been the fate of the damsel,
Whether she, in the sorrowful flight, form’d one of the people?
At this moment, however, the druggist nimbly approach’d them,
Pull’d the sleeve of the pastor, and whisper’d to him as follows:—
“I have at last pick’d out the maiden from many a hundred
By her description! Pray come and judge for yourself with your own eyes;
Bring the magistrate with you, that we may learn the whole story.”
So they turn’d themselves round; but the magistrate found himself summon’d
By his own followers, who had need of his presence and counsel.
But the pastor forthwith the druggist accompanied, till they
Came to a gap in the hedge, when the latter pointed with slyness.
“See you,” exclaim’d he, “the maiden? The child’s clothes she has been changing.
And I recognize well the old calico—also the cushion-
Cover of blue, which Hermann took in the bundle and gave her.
Quickly and well, of a truth, she has used the presents left with her.
These are evident proofs; and all the rest coincide too;
For a bodice red her well-arch’d bosom upraises,
Prettily tied, while black are the stays fitting close around her.
Then the seams of the ruff she has carefully plaited and folded,
Which, with modest grace, her chin so round is encircling;
Free and joyously rises her head, with its elegant oval,
Strongly round bodkins of silver her back hair is many times twisted.
When she is sitting, we plainly see her noble proportions,
And the blue well-plaited gown which begins from close to her bosom,
And in rich folds descending, her well-turn’d ankles envelops.
’Tis she, beyond all doubt. So come, that we may examine
Whether she be both a good and a frugal and virtuous maiden.”
Then the pastor rejoin’d, the sitting damsel inspecting:—
“That she enchanted the youth, I confess is no matter of wonder,
For she stands the test of the gaze of a man of experience.
Happy the person to whom Mother Nature the right face has given!
She recommends him at all times, he never appears as a stranger,
Each one gladly approaches, and each one beside him would linger,
If with his face is combin’d a pleasant and courteous demeanor.
Yes, I assure you the youth has indeed discover’d a maiden
Who the whole of the days of his life will enliven with gladness,
And with her womanly strength assist him at all times and truly.
Thus a perfect body preserves the soul also in pureness,
And a vigorous youth of a happy old age gives assurance.”
After reflecting a little, the druggist made answer as follows:—
“Yet appearances oft are deceitful. I trust not the outside.
Often, indeed, have I found the truth of the proverb which tells us:
Ere you share a bushel of salt with a newfound acquaintance,
Do not trust him too readily; time will make you more certain
How you and he will get on, and whether your friendship is lasting.
Let us then, in the first place, inquire amongst the good people
Unto whom the maiden is known, who can tell us about her.”
“Well, of a truth I commend your prudence,” the pastor continu’d:—
“Not for ourselves are we wooing! To woo for others is serious.”
So they started to meet the worthy magistrate, seeing
How in the course of his business he was ascending the main street.
And the wise pastor straightway address’d him with foresight as follows:—
“We, by-the-by, have just seen a girl in the neighboring garden
Under an apple tree sitting, and clothes for the children preparing,
Made of worn calico which for the purpose was doubtless presented.
We were pleas’d by her face; she appears to be one of the right sort.
Tell us, what know you about her? We ask from a laudable motive.”
When the magistrate came to the garden and peep’d in, exclaim’d he:—
“Well do I know her, in truth; for when I told you the story
Of that noble deed which was done by the maiden I spoke of,
How she seiz’d on the sword, and defended herself and the servants,—
She the heroine was! You can see how active her nature.
But she’s as good as she’s strong; for her aged kinsman she tended
Until the time of his death, for he died overwhelm’d by affliction
At the distress of his town, and the danger his goods were expos’d to.
Also with mute resignation she bore the grievous affliction
Of her betroth’d’s sad death, a noble young man who, incited
By the first fire of noble thoughts, to struggle for freedom,
Went himself to Paris, and soon found a terrible death there.
For, as at home, so there, he fought ’gainst intrigue and oppression.”
Thus the magistrate spoke. The others departed and thank’d him,
And the pastor produc’d a gold piece (the silver his purse held
He some hours before had with genuine kindness expended
When he saw the fugitives passing in sorrowful masses).
And the magistrate handed it, saying:—“Divide it, I pray you,
’Mongst those who need it the most. May God give it prosperous increase.”
But the man refus’d to accept it, and said:—“I assure you,
Many a dollar we’ve sav’d, and plenty of clothing and such things,
And I trust we may reach our homes before they are finish’d.”
Then continu’d the pastor, the gold in his hand once more placing:—
“None should delay to give in days like the present, and no one
Ought to refuse to receive what is offer’d with liberal kindness.
No one can tell how long he will keep what in peace he possesses,
No one, how long he is doom’d in foreign countries to wander,
While he’s depriv’d of the field and the garden by which he is nurtur’d.”
“Bravo!” added in turn the druggist, with eagerness speaking:—
“Had I but money to spare in my pocket, you surely should have it—
Silver and gold alike; for your followers certainly need it.
Yet I’ll not leave you without a present, if only to show you
My good will, and I hope you will take the will for the action.”
Thus he spoke and pull’d out by the strings the leather embroider’d
Pouch, in which he was wont his stock of tobacco to carry,
Daintily open’d and shar’d its contents—some two or three pipes’ full.
“Small in truth is the gift,” he added. The magistrate answer’d:—
“Good tobacco is always a welcome present to trav’llers.”
Then the druggist began his canister to praise very highly.
But the pastor drew him away, and the magistrate left them.
“Come, let us hasten!” exclaim’d the sensible man, “for our young friend
Anxiously waits; without further delay let him hear the good tidings.”
So they hasten’d and came, and found that the youngster was leaning
’Gainst his carriage under the lime trees. The horses were pawing
Wildly the turf; he held them in check and stood there all pensive,
Silently gazing in front, and saw not his friends coming near him,
Till, as they came, they call’d him and gave him signals of triumph.
Some way off the druggist already began to address him,
But they approach’d the youth still nearer, and then the good pastor
Seiz’d his hand and spoke and took the word from his comrade:—
“Friend, I wish you joy! Your eye so true and your true heart
Rightly have chosen! May you and the wife of your young days be happy!
She is full worthy of you; so come and turn round the carriage,
That we may reach without delay the end of the village,
So as to woo her, and shortly escort the dear creature home with us.”
But the youth stood still, and without any token of pleasure
Heard the words of the envoy, though sounding consoling and heav’nly,
Deeply sigh’d and said:—“We came full speed in the carriage,
And shall probably go back home asham’d and but slowly;
For, since I have been waiting care has fallen upon me,
Doubt and suspicion and all that a heart full of love is expos’d to.
Do you suppose we have only to come, for the maiden to follow,
Just because we are rich, and she poor and wandering in exile?
Poverty, when undeserv’d, itself makes proud. The fair maiden
Seems to be active and frugal; the world she may claim as her portion.
Do you suppose that a woman of such great beauty and manners
Can have grown up without exciting love in man’s bosom?
Do you suppose that her heart until now has to love been fast closed?
Do not drive thither in haste, for perchance to our shame and confusion
We shall have slowly to turn towards home the heads of our horses.
Yes, some youth, I fear me, possesses her heart, and already
She has doubtless promis’d her hand and her solemn troth plighted,
And I shall stand all asham’d before her when making my offer.”
Then the pastor proceeded to cheer him with words of good comfort,
But his companion broke in, in his usual talkative manner:—
“As things used to be, this embarrassment would not have happen’d,
When each matter was brought to a close in an orthodox fashion.
Then for their son themselves the bride the parents selected,
And a friend of the house was secretly call’d in the first place.
He was then quietly sent as a suitor to visit the parents
Of the selected bride; and, dress’d in his gayest apparel,
Went after dinner some Sunday to visit the excellent burgher,
And began by exchanging polite remarks on all subjects,
Cleverly turning and bending the talk in the proper direction.
After long beating about the bush, he flatter’d the daughter,
And spoke well of the man and the house that gave his commission.
Sensible people soon saw his drift, and the sensible envoy
Watch’d how the notion was taken, and then could explain himself farther.
If they declin’d the proposal, why then the refusal cost nothing,
But if all prosper’d, why then the suitor forever thereafter
Play’d the first fiddle at every family feast and rejoicing.
For the married couple remember’d the whole of their lifetime
Whose was the skilful hand by which the marriage knot tied was.
All this now is chang’d, and with many an excellent custom
Has gone quite out of fashion. Each person woos for himself now.
Everyone now must bear the weight of a maiden’s refusal
On his own shoulders, and stand all asham’d before her, if needs be.”
“Let that be as it may,” then answer’d the young man who scarcely
Heard what was said, and his mind had made up already in silence:—
“I will go myself, and out of the mouth of the maiden
Learn my own fate, for towards her I cherish the most trustful feelings
That any man ever cherish’d towards any woman whatever.
That which she says will be good and sensible,—this I am sure of.
If I am never to see her again, I must once more behold her,
And the ingenuous gaze of her black eyes must meet for the last time.
If to my heart I may clasp her never, her bosom and shoulders
I would once more see, which my arm so longs to encircle;
Once more the mouth I would see, from which one kiss and a Yes will
Make me happy forever, a No forever undo me.
But now leave me alone! Wait here no longer. Return you
Straight to my father and mother, in order to tell them in person
That their son was right, and that the maiden is worthy.
And so leave me alone! I myself shall return by the footpath
Over the hill by the pear tree and then descend through the vineyard,
Which is the shortest way back. Oh, may I soon with rejoicing
Take the belov’d one home! But perchance all alone I must slink back
By that path to our house and tread it no more with a light heart.”
Thus he spoke, and then plac’d the reins in the hands of the pastor,
Who, in a knowing way both the foaming horses restraining,
Nimbly mounted the carriage, and took the seat of the driver.
But you still delay’d, good cautious neighbor, and spoke thus:—
“Friend, I will gladly intrust to you soul, and spirit, and mind too,
But my body and bones are not preserv’d in the best way
When the hand of a parson such worldly matters as reins grasps!”
But you smil’d in return, you sensible pastor, replying:—
“Pray jump in, nor fear with both body and spirit to trust me,
For this hand to hold the reins has long been accustom’d,
And these eyes are train’d to turn the corner with prudence.
For we were wont to drive the carriage, when living at Strasburg,
At the time when with the young baron I went there, for daily,
Driven by me, through the echoing gateway thunder’d the carriage
By the dusty roads to distant meadows and lindens,
Through the crowds of the people who spend their lifetime in walking.”
Partially comforted, then his neighbor mounted the carriage,
Sitting like one prepar’d to make a wise jump, if needs be,
And the stallions, eager to reach their stables, cours’d homewards,
While beneath their powerful hoofs the dust rose in thick clouds.
Long there stood the youth, and saw the dust rise before him,
Saw the dust disperse; but still he stood there, unthinking.
AS the man on a journey, who, just at the moment of sunset,
Fixes his gaze once more on the rapidly vanishing planet,
Then on the side of the rocks and in the dark thicket still sees he
Hov’ring its image; wherever he turns his looks, on in front still
Runs it, and glitters and wavers before him in colors all splendid,
So before Hermann’s eyes did the beautiful form of the maiden
Softly move, and appear’d to follow the path through the cornfields.
But he rous’d himself up from his startling dream, and then slowly
Turn’d tow’rd the village his steps, and once more started,—for once more
Saw he the noble maiden’s stately figure approaching.
Fixedly gaz’d he; it was no phantom in truth; she herself ’twas.
In her hands by the handle she carried two pitchers,—one larger,
One of a smaller size, and nimbly walk’d to the fountain.
And he joyfully went to meet her; the sight of her gave him
Courage and strength, and so he address’d the surpris’d one as follows:—
“Do I find you again, brave maiden, engag’d in assisting
Others so soon, and in giving refreshment to those who may need it?
Tell me why you have come all alone to the spring so far distant,
Whilst the rest are content with the water that’s found in the village?
This one, indeed, special virtue possesses, and pleasant to drink is.
Is’t for the sake of that sick one you come, whom you sav’d with such courage?”
Then the good maiden the youth in friendly fashion saluted,
Saying:—“Already my walk to the fountain is fully rewarded,
Since I have found the kind person who gave us so many good presents;
For the sight of a giver, like that of a gift, is refreshing.
Come and see for yourself the persons who tasted your kindness,
And receive the tranquil thanks of all you have aided.
But that you may know the reason why I have come here,
Water to draw at a spot where the spring is both pure and unceasing,
I must inform you that thoughtless men have disturb’d all the water
Found in the village, by carelessly letting the horses and oxen
Wade about in the spring which gives the inhabitants water.
In the same manner, with all their washing and cleaning, they’ve dirtied
All the troughs of the village, and all the fountains have sullied.
For each one of them only thinks how quickly and soon he
May supply his own wants, and cares not for those who come after.”
Thus she spoke, and soon she arriv’d at the foot of the broad steps
With her companion, and both of them sat themselves down on the low wall
Round the spring. She bent herself over, to draw out the water,
He the other pitcher took up, and bent himself over,
And in the blue of the heavens they saw their figures reflected,
Waving, and nodding, and in the mirror their greetings exchanging.
“Now let me drink,” exclaim’d the youth in accents of gladness,
And she gave him the pitcher. They then, like old friends, sat together,
Leaning against the vessels, when she address’d him as follows:—
“Say, why find I you here without your carriage and horses,
Far from the place where first I saw you? Pray how came you hither?”
Hermann thoughtfully gaz’d on the ground, but presently lifted
Calmly towards her his glances, and gaz’d on her face in kind fashion,
Feeling quite calm and compos’d. And yet with love to address her
Found he quite out of the question; for love from her eyes was not beaming,
But an intellect clear, which bade him use sensible language.
Soon he collected his thoughts, and quietly said to the maiden:—
“Let me speak, my child, and let me answer your questions.
’Tis for your sake alone I have come,—why seek to conceal it?
For I happily live with two affectionate parents,
Whom I faithfully help to look after our house and possessions,
Being an only son, while numerous are our employments.
I look after the field-work; the house is carefully manag’d
By my father; my mother the hostelry cheers and enlivens.
But you also have doubtless found out how greatly the servants,
Sometimes by fraud, and sometimes by levity, worry their mistress,
Constantly making her change them, and barter one fault for another.
Long has my mother, therefore, been wanting a girl in the household,
Who, not only with hand, but also with heart might assist her,
In the place of the daughter she lost, alas, prematurely.
Now when I saw you to-day near the carriage, so active and sprightly,
Saw the strength of your arm and the perfect health of your members,
When I heard your sensible words, I was struck with amazement,
And I hasten’d back home, deservedly praising the stranger
Both to my parents and friends. And now I come to inform you
What they desire, as I do. Forgive my stammering language!”
“Do not hesitate,” said she, “to tell me the rest of your story;
I have with gratitude felt that you have not sought to insult me.
Speak on boldly, I pray; your words shall never alarm me;
You would fain hire me now as maid to your father and mother,
To look after the house, which now is in excellent order.
And you think that in me you have found a qualified maiden,
One that is able to work, and not of a quarrelsome nature.
Your proposal was short, and short shall my answer be also:—
Yes! with you I will go, and the voice of my destiny follow.
I have fulfill’d my duty, and brought the lyingin woman
Back to her friends again, who all rejoice at her rescue.
Most of them now are together, the rest will presently join them.
All expect that they, in a few short days, will be able
Homewards to go; ’tis thus that exiles themselves love to flatter.
But I cannot deceive myself with hopes so delusive
In these sad days which promise still sadder days in the future;
For all the bonds of the world are loosen’d, and naught can rejoin them,
Save that supreme necessity over our future impending.
If in the house of so worthy a man I can earn my own living,
Serving under the eye of his excellent wife, I will do so;
For a wandering girl bears not the best reputation.
Yes! with you I will go, as soon as I’ve taken the pitcher
Back to my friends, and receiv’d the blessing of those worthy people.
Come! you needs must see them, and from their hands shall receive me.”
Joyfully heard the youth the willing maiden’s decision,
Doubting whether he now had not better tell her the whole truth;
But it appear’d to him best to let her remain in her error,
First to take her home, and then for her love to entreat her.
Ah! but now he espied a golden ring on her finger,
And so let her speak, while he attentively listen’d:—
“Let us now return,” she continu’d; “the custom is always
To admonish the maidens who tarry too long at the fountain,
Yet how delightful it is by the fast-flowing water to chatter!”
Then they both arose, and once more directed their glances
Into the fountain, and then a blissful longing came o’er them.
So from the ground by the handles she silently lifted the pitchers,
Mounted the steps of the well, and Hermann follow’d the lov’d one.
One of the pitchers he ask’d her to give him, thus sharing the burden.
“Leave it,” she said; “the weight feels less when thus they are balanc’d;
And the master I’ve soon to obey should not be my servant.
Gaze not so earnestly at me, as if my fate were still doubtful!
Women should learn betimes to serve, according to station,
For by serving alone she attains at last to the mastery,
To the due influence which she ought to possess in the household.
Early the sister must learn to serve her brothers and parents,
And her life is ever a ceaseless going and coming,
Or a lifting and carrying, working and doing for others.
Well for her if she finds no manner of life too offensive,
And if to her the hours of night and of day all the same are,
So that her work never seems too mean, her needle too pointed,
So that herself she forgets, and liveth only for others!
For as a mother in truth she needs the whole of the virtues,
When the suckling awakens the sick one, and nourishment calls for
From the exhausted parent, heaping cares upon suff’ring.
Twenty men together could not endure such a burden,
And they ought not,—and yet they gratefully ought to behold it.”
Thus she spoke, and with her silent companion advanc’d she
Through the garden, until the floor of the granary reach’d they,
Where the sick woman lay, whom she left by her daughters attended,
Those dear rescu’d maidens, the types of innocent beauty.
Both of them enter’d the room, and from the other direction,
Holding a child in each hand, her friend, the magistrate, enter’d.
These had lately been lost for some time by the sorrowing mother,
But the old man had now found them out in the crowd of the people.
And they sprang in with joy, to greet their dearly-lov’d mother,
To rejoice in a brother, the playmate now seen for the first time!
Then on Dorothea they sprang, and greeted her warmly,
Asking for bread and fruit, but asking for drink before all things.
And they handed the water all round. The children first drank some,
Then the sick woman drank, with her daughters, the magistrate also.
All were refresh’d, and sounded the praise of the excellent water;
Mineral was it, and very reviving, and wholesome for drinking.
Then with a serious look continu’d the maiden, and spoke thus:—
“Friends, to your mouths for the last time in truth I have lifted the pitcher,
And for the last time, alas, have moisten’d your lips with pure water.
But whenever in scorching heat your drink may refresh you,
And in the shade you enjoy repose and a fountain unsullied,
Then remember me, and all my friendly assistance,
Which I from love, and not from relationship merely, have render’d.
All your kindness to me, as long as life lasts, I’ll remember.
I unwillingly leave you; but each one is now to each other
Rather a burden than comfort. We all must shortly be scatter’d
Over a foreign land, unless to return we are able.
See, here stands the youth to whom for those gifts we’re indebted,
All those clothes for the child, and all those acceptable viands.
Well, he has come, and is anxious that I to his house should go with him,
There as a servant to act to his rich and excellent parents,
And I have not refus’d him, for serving appears my vocation,
And to be serv’d by others at home would seem like a burden.
So I’ll go willingly with him; the youth appears to be prudent;
Thus will his parents be properly car’d for, as rich people should be.
Therefore, now, farewell, my much-lov’d friend, and be joyful
In your living infant, who looks so healthily at you.
When you press him against your bosom, wrapp’d up in those color’d
Swaddling-clothes, then remember the youth who so kindly bestow’d them,
And who in future will feed and clothe me also, your lov’d friend.
You too, excellent man,” to the magistrate turning, she added:—
“Warmly I thank for so often acting the part of a father.”
Then she knelt herself down before the lying-in patient,
Kiss’d the weeping woman, her whisper’d blessing receiving.
Meanwhile the worthy magistrate spoke to Hermann as follows:—
“You deserve, my friend, to be counted amongst the good landlords
Who are anxious to manage their house through qualified people.
For I have often observ’d how cautiously men are accustom’d
Sheep and cattle and horses to watch, when buying or bart’ring;
But a man, who’s so useful, provided he’s good and efficient,
And who does so much harm and mischief by treacherous dealings,
Him will people admit to their houses by chance and haphazard,
And too late find reason to rue an o’erhasty decision.
This you appear to understand, for a girl you have chosen
As your servant, and that of your parents, who thoroughly good is.
Treat her well, and as long as she finds the business suits her,
You will not miss your sister, your parents will miss not their daughter.”
Other persons now enter’d, the patient’s nearest relations,
Mahy articles bringing, and better lodgings announcing.
All were inform’d of the maiden’s decision, and warmly bless’d Hermann,
Both with significant looks, and also with grateful expressions,
And one secretly whisper’d into the ear of another:—
“If the master should turn to a bridegroom, her home is provided.”
Hermann then presently took her hand, and address’d her as follows:—
“Let us be going; the day is declining, and far off the village.”
Then the women, with lively expressions, embrac’d Dorothea;
Hermann drew her away; they still continu’d to greet her.
Next the children, with screams and terrible crying, attack’d her,
Pulling her clothes, their second mother refusing to part from.
But first one of the women, and then another rebuk’d them:—
“Children, hush! to the town she is going, intending to bring you
Plenty of gingerbread back, which your brother already had order’d,
From the confectioner, when the stork was passing there lately,
And she’ll soon return, with the papers prettily gilded.”
So at length the children releas’d her; but scarcely could Hermann
Tear her from their embraces and distant-signaling kerchiefs.
HERMANN AND DOROTHEA.
SO tow’rd the sun, now fast sinking to rest, the two walk’d together,
Whilst he veil’d himself deep in clouds which thunder portended;
Out of his veil now here, now there, with fiery glances
Beaming over the plain with rays foreboding and lurid.
“May this threatening weather,” said Hermann, “not bring to us shortly
Hail and violent rain, for well does the harvest now promise.”
And they both rejoic’d in the corn so lofty and waving,
Well nigh reaching the heads of the two tall figures that walk’d there.
Then the maiden spoke to her friendly leader as follows:—
“Generous youth, to whom I shall owe a kind destiny shortly,
Shelter and home, when so many poor exiles must weather the tempest,
In the first place tell me all about your good parents,
Whom I intend to serve with all my soul from henceforward;
Knowing one’s master, ’tis easier far to give satisfaction,
By rememb’ring the things which he deems of the highest importance,
And on which he has set his heart with the greatest decision.
Tell me, then, how best I can win your father and mother.”
Then the good and sensible youth made answer as follows:—
“You are indeed quite right, my kind and excellent maiden,
To begin by asking about the tastes of my parents!
For I have hitherto striven in vain to satisfy father,
When I look’d after the inn, as well as my regular duty,
Working early and late in the field, and tending the vineyard.
Mother indeed was contented; she knew how to value my efforts;
And she will certainly hold you to be an excellent maiden,
If you take care of the house, as though the dwelling your own were.
But my father’s unlike her; he’s fond of outward appearance.
Gentle maiden, deem me not cold and void of all feeling,
If I disclose my father’s nature to you, who’re a stranger.
Yes, such words have never before escap’d, I assure you,
Out of my mouth, which is little accustom’d to babble and chatter;
But you have manag’d to worm all my secrets from out of my bosom.
Well, my worthy father the graces of life holds in honor,
Wishes for outward signs of love, as well as of rev’rence,
And would doubtless be satisfied with an inferior servant
Who understood this fancy, and hate a better, who did not.”
Cheerfully she replied, with gentle movement increasing
Through the darkening path the speed at which she was walking:—
“I in truth shall hope to satisfy both of your parents,
For your mother’s character my own nature resembles,
And to external graces have I from my youth been accustom’d.
Our old neighbors, the French, in their earlier days laid much stress on
Courteous demeanor; ’twas common alike to nobles and burghers,
And to peasants, and each enjoin’d it on all his acquaintance.
In the same way, on the side of the Germans, the children were train’d up
Every morning, with plenty of kissing of hands and of curtsies,
To salute their parents, and always to act with politeness.
All that I have learn’d, and all I have practis’d since childhood,
All that comes from my heart,—I will practise it all with the old man.
But on what terms shall I—I scarcely dare ask such a question,—
Be with yourself, the only son, and hereafter my master?”
Thus she spoke, and at that moment they came to the pear tree.
Down from the skies the moon at her full was shining in glory;
Night had arriv’d, and the last pale gleam of the sunset had vanish’d.
So before them were lying, in masses all heap’d up together,
Lights as clear as the day, and shadows of night and of darkness.
And the friendly question was heard by Hermann with pleasure,
Under the shade of the noble tree at the spot which he lov’d so,
Which that day had witness’d his tears at the fate of the exile.
And whilst they sat themselves down, to take a little repose there,
Thus the loving youth spoke, whilst he seiz’d the hand of the maiden:—
“Let your heart give the answer, and always obey what it tells you!”
But he ventur’d to say no more, however propitious
Was the moment; he fear’d that a No would be her sole answer,
Ah! and he felt the ring on her finger, that sorrowful token.
So by the side of each other they quietly sat and in silence,
But the maiden began to speak, and said, “How delightful
Is the light of the moon! The clearness of day it resembles.
Yonder I see in the town the houses and courtyards quite plainly,
In the gable a window; methinks all the panes I can reckon.”
“That which you see,” replied the youth, who spoke with an effort,
“That is our house down to which I now am about to conduct you,
And that window yonder belongs to my room in the attic,
Which will probably soon be yours, as we’re making great changes.
All these fields are ours, and ripe for the harvest to-morrow;
Here in the shade we are wont to rest, enjoying our meal-time.
But let us now descend across the vineyard and garden,
For observe how the threatening storm is hitherward rolling,
Lightening first, and then eclipsing the beautiful full moon.”
So the pair arose, and wander’d down by the corn-field,
Through the powerful corn, in the nightly clearness rejoicing;
And they reach’d the vineyard, and through its dark shadows proceeded.
So he guided her down the numerous tiers of the flat stones
Which, in an unhewn state, serv’d as steps to the walk through the foliage.
Slowly she descended, and plac’d her hands on his shoulders;
And, with a quivering light, the moon through the foliage o’erlook’d them,
Till by storm-clouds envelop’d, she left the couple in darkness.
Then the strong youth supported the maiden, who on him was leaning;
She, however, not knowing the path, or observing the rough steps,
Slipp’d as she walk’d, her foot gave way, and she well nigh was falling.
Hastily held out his arm the youth with nimbleness thoughtful,
And held up his belov’d one; she gently sank on his shoulder,
Breast was press’d against breast, and cheek against cheek, and so stood he
Fix’d like a marble statue, restrain’d by a firm resolution;
He embrac’d her no closer, though all her weight he supported;
So he felt his noble burden, the warmth of her bosom,
And her balmy breath, against his warm lips exhaling,
Bearing with manly feelings the woman’s heroical greatness.
But she conceal’d the pain which she felt, and jestingly spoke thus:—
“It betokens misfortune,—so scrupulous people inform us,—
For the foot to give way on entering a house, near the threshold.
I should have wish’d, in truth, for a sign of some happier omen!
Let us tarry a little, for fear your parents should blame you,
For their limping servant, and you should be thought a bad landlord.”
O YE MUSES, who gladly favor a love that is heartfelt,
Who on his way the excellent youth have hitherto guided,
Who have press’d the maid to his bosom before their betrothal,
Help still further to perfect the bonds of a couple so loving,
Drive away the clouds which over their happiness hover!
But begin by saying what now in the house has been passing.
For the third time the mother impatiently enter’d the chamber
Where the men were sitting, which she had anxiously quitted,
Speaking of the approaching storm, and the loss of the moon’s light,
Then of her son’s long absence, and all the perils that night brings.
Strongly she censur’d their friends for having so soon left the youngster,
For not even addressing the maiden, or seeking to woo her.
“Make not the worst of the mischief,” the father peevishly answer’d;
“For you see we are waiting ourselves, expecting the issue.”
But the neighbor sat still, and calmly address’d them as follows:—
“In uneasy moments like these I always feel grateful
To my late father, who, when I was young, all seeds of impatience
In my mind uprooted, and left no fragment remaining,
And I learn’d how to wait, as well as the best of the wise men.”
“Tell us what legerdemain he employ’d,” the pastor made answer.
“I will gladly inform you, and each one may gain by the lesson,”
Answer’d the neighbor. “When I was a boy, I was standing one Sunday
In a state of impatience, eagerly waiting the carriage
Which was to carry us out to the fountain under the lime trees;
But it came not; I ran like a weasel, now hither, now thither,
Up and down the stairs, and from the door to the window;
Both my hands were prickling, I scratch’d away at the tables,
Stamping and trotting about, and scarcely refrain’d I from crying.
All this the calm man composedly saw; but finally when I
Carried my folly too far, by the arm he quietly took me,
Led me up to the window, and used this significant language:—
‘See you up yonder the joiner’s workshop, now clos’d for the Sunday?
’Twill be reopen’d to-morrow, and plane and saw will be working.
Thus will the busy hours be pass’d from morning till evening.
But remember this: the morning will soon be arriving
When the master, together with all his men, will be busy
In preparing and finishing quickly and deftly your coffin,
And they will carefully bring over here that house made of boards, which
Will at length receive the patient as well as impatient,
And which is destin’d to carry a roof that’s unpleasantly heavy.’
All that he mention’d I forthwith saw taking place in my mind’s eye,
Saw the boards join’d together, and saw the black cover made ready,—
Patiently then I sat, and meekly awaited the carriage.
And I always think of the coffin whenever I see men
Running about in a state of doubtful and wild expectation.”
Smilingly answer’d the pastor:—“Death’s stirring image is neither
Unto the wise a cause of alarm,—or an end to the pious.
Back into life it urges the former, and teaches him action,
And for the weal of the latter, it strengthens his hope in affliction.
Death is a giver of life unto both. Your father did wrongly
When to the sensitive boy he pointed out death in its own form.
Unto the youth should be shown the worth of a noble and ripen’d
Age, and unto the old man, youth, that both may rejoice in
The eternal circle, and life may in life be made perfect!”
Here the door was open’d. The handsome couple appear’d there,
And the friends were amaz’d, the loving parents astonish’d
At the form of the bride, the form of the bridegroom resembling.
Yes! the door appear’d too small to admit the tall figures
Which now cross’d the threshold, in company walking together.
To his parents Hermann presented her, hastily saying:—
“Here is a maiden just of the sort you are wishing to have here.
Welcome her kindly, dear father! she fully deserves it, and you too,
Mother dear, ask her questions as to her housekeeping knowledge,
That you may see how well she deserves to form one of our party.”
Then he hastily took on one side the excellent pastor,
Saying:—“Kind sir, I entreat you to help me out of this trouble
Quickly, and loosen the knot, whose unravelling I am so dreading;
For I have not ventur’d to woo as my bride the fair maiden,
But she believes she’s to be a maid in the house, and I fear me
She will in anger depart, as soon as we talk about marriage.
But it must be decided at once! no longer in error
Shall she remain, and I no longer this doubt can put up with.
Hasten and once more exhibit that wisdom we all hold in honor.”
So the pastor forthwith turn’d round to the rest of the party,
But the maiden’s soul was, unhappily, troubled already
By the talk of the father, who just had address’d her as follows,
Speaking good-humoredly, and in accents pleasant and lively:—
“Yes, I’m well satisfied, child! I joyfully see that my son has
Just as good taste as his father, who in his younger days show’d it,
Always leading the fairest one out in the dance, and then lastly
Taking the fairest one home as his wife—’twas your dear little mother!
For by the bride whom a man selects, we may easily gather
What kind of spirit his is, and whether he knows his own value.
But you will surely need but a short time to form your decision,
For I verily think he will find it full easy to follow.”
Hermann but partially heard the words; the whole of his members
Inwardly quiver’d, and all the circle were suddenly silent.
But the excellent maiden, by words of such irony wounded,
(As she esteem’d them to be) and deeply distress’d in her spirit,
Stood, while a passing flush from her cheeks as far as her neck was
Spreading, but she restrain’d herself, and collected her thoughts soon;
Then to the old man she said, not fully concealing her sorrow:—
“Truly I was not prepar’d by your son for such a reception,
When he describ’d his father’s nature,—that excellent burgher,
And I know I am standing before you, a person of culture,
Who behaves himself wisely to all, in a suitable manner.
But it would seem that you feel not pity enough for the poor thing
Who has just cross’d your threshold, prepar’d to enter your service;
Else you would not seek to point out, with ridicule bitter,
How far remov’d my lot from your son’s and that of yourself is.
True, with a little bundle, and poor, I have enter’d your dwelling,
Which it is the owner’s delight to furnish with all things.
But I know myself well, and feel the whole situation.
Is it generous thus to greet me with language so jeering,
Which has well nigh expell’d me the house, when just on the threshold?”
Hermann uneasily mov’d about, and sign’d to the pastor
To interpose without delay, and clear up the error.
Quickly the wise man advanc’d to the spot, and witness’d the maiden’s
Silent vexation and tearful eyes and scarce-restrain’d sorrow.
Then his spirit advis’d him to solve not at once the confusion,
But, on the contrary, prove the excited mind of the maiden.
So, in words fram’d to try her, the pastor address’d her as follows:—
“Surely, my foreign maiden, you did not fully consider,
When you made up your mind to serve a stranger so quickly,
What it really is to enter the house of a master;
For a shake of the hand decides your fate for a twelvemonth,
And a single word Yes to much endurance will bind you.
But the worst part of the service is not the wearisome habits,
Nor the bitter toil of the work, which seems never-ending;
For the active freeman works hard as well as the servant.
But to suffer the whims of the master, who blames you unjustly,
Or who calls for this and for that, not knowing his own mind,
And the mistress’s violence, always so easily kindled,
With the children’s rough and supercilious bad manners,—
This is indeed hard to bear, whilst still fulfilling your duties
Promptly and actively, never becoming morose or ill-natured;
Yet for such work you appear little fit, for already the father’s
Jokes have offended you deeply; yet nothing more commonly happens
Than to tease a maiden about her liking a youngster.”
Thus he spoke, and the maiden felt the weight of his language,
And no more restrain’d herself; mightily all her emotions
Show’d themselves, her bosom heav’d, and a deep sigh escap’d her,
And whilst shedding burning tears, she answer’d as follows:—
“Ne’er does the clever man, who seeks to advise us in sorrow,
Think how little his chilling words our hearts can deliver
From the pangs which an unseen destiny fastens upon us.
You are happy and merry. How then should a jest ever wound you?
But the slightest touch gives torture to those who are suff’ring.
Even dissimulation would nothing avail me at present.
Let me at once disclose what later would deepen my sorrow,
And consign me perchance to agony mute and consuming.
Let me depart forthwith! No more in this house dare I linger;
I must hence and away, and look once more for my poor friends
Whom I left in distress, when seeking to better my fortunes.
This is my firm resolve; and now I may properly tell you
That which had else been buried for many a year in my bosom.
Yes, the father’s jest has wounded me deeply, I own it,
Not that I’m proud and touchy, as ill becometh a servant,
But because in truth in my heart a feeling has risen
For the youth, who to-day has fill’d the part of my saviour.
For when first in the road he left me, his image remain’d still
Firmly fix’d in my mind; and I thought of the fortunate maiden
Whom, as his betroth’d one, he cherish’d perchance in his bosom.
And when I found him again at the well, the sight of him charm’d me
Just as if I had seen an angel descending from heaven.
And I follow’d him willingly, when as a servant he sought me,
But by my heart in truth I was flatter’d (I need must confess it),
As I hitherward came, that I might possibly win him,
If I became in the house an indispensable pillar.
But, alas, I now see the dangers I well nigh fell into,
When I bethought me of living so near a silently-lov’d one.
Now for the first time I feel how far remov’d a poor maiden
Is from a richer youth, however clever she may be.
I have told you all this, that you my heart may mistake not,
Which an event that in thought I foreshadow has wounded already.
For I must have expected, my secret wishes concealing,
That, ere much time had elaps’d, I should see him bringing his bride home.
And how then could I have endur’d my hidden affliction!
Happily I am warn’d in time, and out of my bosom
Has my secret escap’d, whilst curable still is the evil.
But no more of the subject! I now must tarry no longer
In this house, where I now am standing in pain and confusion,
All my foolish hopes and my feelings freely confessing.
Not the night which, with sinking clouds, is spreading around us,
Not the rolling thunder (I hear it already) shall stop me,
Not the falling rain, which outside is descending in torrents,
Not the blustering storm. All this I had to encounter
In that sorrowful flight, while the enemy follow’d behind us.
And once more I go on my way, as I long have been wont to,
Seiz’d by the whirlpool of time, and parted from all that I care for.
So farewell! I’ll tarry no longer. My fate is accomplish’d!”
Thus she spoke, and towards the door she hastily turn’d her,
Holding under her arm the bundle she brought when arriving,
But the mother seiz’d by both of her arms the fair maiden,
Clasping her round the body, and cried with surprise and amazement:—
“Say, what signifies this? These fruitless tears, what denote they?
No, I’ll not leave you alone! You’re surely my dear son’s betrothed!”
But the father stood still, and show’d a great deal of reluctance,
Stared at the weeping girl, and peevishly spoke then as follows:—
“This, then, is all the indulgence my friends are willing to give me,
That at the close of the day the most unpleasant thing happens!
For there is nothing I hate so much as the tears of a woman,
And their passionate cries, set up with such heat and excitement,
Which a little plain sense would show to be utterly needless.
Truly, I find the sight of these whimsical doings a nuisance.
Matters must shift for themselves; as for me, I think it is bed-time.”
So he quickly turn’d round, and hasten’d to go to the chamber
Where the marriage-bed stood, in which he slept for the most part.
But his son held him back, and spoke in words of entreaty:—
“Father, don’t go in a hurry, and be not annoy’d with the maiden!
I alone have to bear the blame of all this confusion,
Which our friend has increas’d by his unexpected dissembling.
Speak then, honor’d sir! for to you the affair I confided;
Heap not up pain and annoyance, but rather complete the whole matter;
For I surely in future should not respect you so highly,
If you play practical jokes, instead of displaying true wisdom.”
Thereupon the worthy pastor smilingly answer’d:—
“What kind of wisdom could have extracted the charming confession
Of this good maiden, and so have reveal’d all her character to us?
Is not your care converted at once to pleasure and rapture?
Speak out, then, for yourself! Why need explanations from others?”
Hermann then stepp’d forward, and gently address’d her as follows:—
“Do not repent of your tears, nor yet of your passing affliction;
For they perfect my happiness; yours too, I fain would consider.
I came not to the fountain, to hire so noble a maiden
As a servant, I came to seek to win your affections.
But, alas! my timid gaze had not strength to discover
Your heart’s leanings; it saw in your eye but a friendly expression,
When you greeted it out of the tranquil fountain’s bright mirror.
Merely to bring you home, made half of my happiness certain;
But you now make it complete! May every blessing be yours, then!”
Then the maiden look’d on the youth with heartfelt emotion,
And avoided not kiss or embrace, the summit of rapture,
When they also are to the loving, the long wish’d-for pledges
Of approaching bliss in a life which now seems to them endless.
Then the pastor told the others the whole of the story;
But the maiden came, and gracefully bent o’er the father,
Kissing the while his hand, which he to draw back attempted.
And she said:—“I am sure that you will forgive the surpris’d one,
First for her tears of sorrow, and then for her tears of true rapture.
Oh, forgive the emotions by which they both have been prompted,
And let me fully enjoy the bliss that has now been vouchsaf’d me!
Let the first vexation, which my confusion gave rise to,
Also be the last! The loving service which lately
Was by the servant promis’d, shall now by the daughter be render’d.”
And the father, his tears concealing, straightway embrac’d her;
Lovingly came the mother in turn, and heartily kiss’d her,
Warmly shaking her hand; and silently wept they together.
Then in a hasty manner, the good and sensible pastor
Seiz’d the hand of the father, his wedding-ring off from his finger
Drawing (not easily though; so plump was the member that held it);
Then he took the mother’s ring, and betroth’d the two children,
Saying:—“Once more may it be these golden hoops’ destination
Firmly to fasten a bond altogether resembling the old one!
For this youth is deeply imbu’d with love for the maiden,
And the maiden confesses that she for the youth has a liking.
Therefore, I now betroth you, and wish you all blessings hereafter,
With the parents’ consent, and with our friend here as a witness.”
And the neighbor bent forward, and added his own benediction;
But when the clergyman plac’d the gold ring on the hand of the maiden,
He with astonishment saw the one which already was on it,
And which Hermann before at the fountain had anxiously notic’d.
Whereupon he spoke in words at once friendly and jesting:—
“What! You are twice engaging yourself? I hope that the first one
May not appear at the altar, unkindly forbidding the banns there!”
But she said in reply:—“Oh, let me devote but one moment
To this mournful rememb’rance! For well did the good youth deserve it,
Who, when departing, presented the ring, but never return’d home.
All was by him foreseen, when freedom’s love of a sudden,
And a desire to play his part in the new-found existence,
Drove him to go to Paris, where prison and death were his portion.
‘Farewell,’ said he, ‘I go; for all things on earth are in motion
At this moment, and all things appear in a state of disunion.
Fundamental laws in the steadiest countries are loosen’d,
And possessions are parted from those who used to possess them,
Friends are parted from friends, and love is parted from love too.
I now leave you here, and whether I ever shall see you
Here again,—who can tell? Perchance these words will our last be.
Man is a stranger here upon earth, the proverb informs us;
Every person has now become more a stranger than ever.
Ours the soil is no longer; our treasures are fast flying from us;
All the sacred old vessels of gold and silver are melted,
All is moving, as though the old-fashion’d world would roll backwards
Into chaos and night, in order anew to be fashion’d.
You of my heart have possession, and if we shall ever hereafter
Meet again over the wreck of the world, it will be as new creatures,
All remodell’d and free and independent of fortune;
For what fetters can bind down those who survive such a period!
But if we are destin’d not to escape from these dangers,
If we are never again to embrace each other with rapture,
Oh, then fondly keep in your thoughts my hovering image,
That you may be prepar’d with like courage for good and ill fortune!
If a new home or a new alliance should chance to allure you,
Then enjoy with thanks whatever your destiny offers,
Purely loving the loving, and grateful to him who thus loves you.
But remember always to tread with a circumspect footstep,
For the fresh pangs of a second loss will behind you be lurking.
Deem each day as sacred; but value not life any higher
Than any other possession, for all possessions are fleeting.’
Thus he spoke; and the noble youth and I parted forever:
Meanwhile I ev’rything lost, and a thousand times thought of his warning;
Once more I think of his words, now that love is sweetly preparing
Happiness for me anew, and the brightest of hopes is unfolding.
Pardon me, dearest friend, for trembling e’en at the moment
When I am clasping your arm! For thus, on first landing, the sailor
Fancies that even the solid ground is shaking beneath him.”
Thus she spoke, and she plac’d the rings by the side of each other.
But the bridegroom answer’d, with noble and manly emotion:—
“All the firmer, amidst the universal disruption,
Be, Dorothea, our union! We’ll show ourselves bold and enduring,
Firmly hold our own, and firmly retain our possessions.
For the man who in wav’ring times is inclin’d to be wav’ring
Only increases the evil, and spreads it wider and wider;
But the man of firm decision the universe fashions.
’Tis not becoming the Germans to further this fearful commotion,
And in addition to waver uncertainly hither and thither.
‘This is our own!’ we ought to say, and so to maintain it!
For the world will ever applaud those resolute nations
Who for God and the Law, their wives, and parents, and children
Struggle, and fall when contending against the foeman together.
You are mine; and now what is mine, is mine more than ever.
Not with anxiety will I preserve it, or timidly use it,
But with courage and strength. And if the enemy threaten,
Now or hereafter, I’ll hold myself ready, and reach down my weapons.
If I know that the house and my parents by you are protected,
I shall expose my breast to the enemy, void of all terror;
And if all others thought thus, then might against might should be measur’d,
And in the early prospect of peace we should all be rejoicing.”
[* ]Characters in Mozart’s Zauberflöte.