Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER II.: ST. JOSEPH THE SECOND. - Goethe's Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister's Travels; Elective Affinities)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAPTER II.: ST. JOSEPH THE SECOND. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister’s Travels; Elective Affinities) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 5: W. Meister’s Travels; Elective Affinities.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
ST. JOSEPH THE SECOND.
Already had the traveller, following on foot his porter’s steps, left steep rocks behind and above him; already were they traversing a less rugged intermediate range, ever hurrying forwards, through many a well-wooded forest, through many a pleasant meadow-ground, until at last they found themselves upon a declivity, and looked down into a carefully cultivated valley shut in all round by hills. A large monastic building, half in ruins, half in good repair, at once attracted their attention.
“This is St. Joseph’s,” said the carrier; “a great pity for the beautiful church! Only look how fresh its pillars and columns still look through the underwood and the trees, although it has been lying so many hundreds of years in ruins.”
“The convent buildings, on the other hand,” replied Wilhelm, “are still, I see, in good preservation.”
“Yes,” said the other, “a steward lives on the spot, who manages the household, and collects the rents and tithes which have to be paid here from far around.”
With these words they had entered, through the open gate, a spacious courtyard, which, surrounded by solemn well-preserved buildings, announced itself as the abode of a peaceful community. He at once perceived his Felix, with the angels of yesterday, busy round a big market-basket, which a strongly-built woman had placed in front of her. They were just about to buy some cherries; but in point of fact, Felix, who always carried some money about him, was beating down the price. He now played the part of host as well as guest, and was lavishing an abundance of fruit on his playmates; even to his father the refreshment was welcome amidst these barren mossy wilds, where the colored shining fruits always seemed so beautiful. “She brought them up some distance from a large garden,” the fruit-woman remarked, in order to make the price satisfactory to the buyers, to whom it had seemed somewhat too high.
“Father will soon return,” said the children; “in the meanwhile you must go into the hall and rest there.”
Yet how astonished was Wilhelm when the children took him to the room which they called the hall. It was entered directly from the courtyard by a large door, and our traveller found himself in a very clean well-preserved chapel, which, however, as in fact he saw, had been arranged for the domestic use of daily life. On one side stood a table, a settle, several chairs and benches; on the other side a carved dresser with various-colored pottery, jugs and glasses. There were not wanting a number of chests and boxes, and, neatly ordered as everything was, there was no want of what is attractive in domestic everyday life. The light fell through high windows at the side. But what most aroused the traveller’s attention were colored pictures painted on the wall at a moderate height below the windows, extended like tapestries round three sides of the chapel, and coming down to a panelled skirting which covered the rest of the wall to the ground. The pictures represented the history of St. Joseph. Here you saw him busy with his carpenter’s work; there he was meeting Mary, and a lily sprouted out of the ground between them, whilst several angels hovered watchfully about them. Here he is being betrothed; then follows the angelic salutation. There he is sitting despondent amidst unfinished work, letting his axe lie, and is thinking of leaving his wife. But presently there appears to him the angel in a dream, and his position is changed. With devotion he regards the new-born Child in the manger at Bethlehem, and adores it. Soon after follows a wonderfully beautiful picture. All kinds of carpentered wood are seen; it is on the point of being put together, and accidentally a couple of pieces form a cross. The Child has fallen asleep upon the cross; its mother is sitting close by regarding it with tender love, and the foster-father stops his work in order not to disturb its sleep. Immediately after follows the Flight into Egypt. It provoked a smile from the traveller as he looked at it, when he saw on the wall the repetition of the living picture of yesterday.
He had not been left long to his meditations when the host entered, whom he recognized immediately as the leader of the holy caravan. They saluted each other most cordially; a conversation on sundry matters followed; still Wilhelm’s attention remained directed towards the picture. The host saw the interest of his guest, and commenced laughingly:
“No doubt you are wondering at the harmony of this structure with its inhabitants, whom you learned to know yesterday. But it is perhaps still more strange than might be supposed; the building has, in fact, made the inhabitants. For, if the lifeless comes to life, then it may well be able also to create a living thing.”
“Oh, yes,” rejoined Wilhelm, “it would surprise me if the spirit who centuries ago worked so powerfully amid this mountain desert, and attracted towards itself such a huge mass of buildings, possessions and rights, and thereby diffused manifold culture in the neighborhood,—it would surprise me if it did not still display its vital energy even out of these ruins upon a living human being. Still, let us not abide by the general; make me acquainted with your history, in order that I may learn how it was possible that, without trifling or pretension, the past is again represented in you, and that which is past and gone comes a second time upon the scene.”
Just as Wilhelm was expecting an instructive answer from the lips of his host, a friendly voice in the courtyard shouted the name of Joseph. The host heard it, and went to the door.
So he is called Joseph, too! said Wilhelm to himself. That is wonderful enough, and yet not quite so wonderful as that he represents his patron saint in the life. At the same time he glanced towards the door, and saw the Madonna of yesterday speaking with her husband. At last they separated; the woman went to the opposite dwelling.
“Mary!” he shouted after her, “just a word more.”
So she is called Mary, too! But a little more, and I shall feel myself transported backwards eighteen hundred years. He mused on the solemn pent-up valley in which he found himself, on the ruins and the stillness, and a strange olden-time sort of mood fell upon him. It was time that the host and children came in. The latter begged Wilhelm to come for a walk, whilst the host still discharged a few duties. They went now through the ruins of the church, with its wealth of columns: the lofty roof and walls seemed to strengthen themselves in wind and storm; whilst strong trees had, ages ago, struck root in the broad tops of the walls, and in company with a good deal of grass, flowers, and moss, represented gardens hanging boldly in the air. Grassy meadow-paths led to a rapid brook, and the traveller could now, from a certain height, look over the building and its situation with an interest which grew greater as its inhabitants became more and more remarkable to him, and, through their harmony with their surroundings, aroused his liveliest curiosity.
They returned, and found a table laid in the consecrated hall. At the upper end there stood an arm-chair, in which the housewife sat down. She had standing by her side a high basket, in which the little child was lying; next, the father on her left hand, and Wilhelm on her right. The three children occupied the lower part of the table. An old female servant brought in a well-prepared repast. The eating and drinking-vessels likewise indicated a bygone time. The children gave occasion for amusement, whilst Wilhelm could not look enough at the figure and bearing of his holy hostess.
After dinner the company separated; the host took his guest to a shady spot in the ruins, where from an elevated position one had in full view the pleasant prospect down the valley, and saw the hills of the lower land, with their fertile declivities and woody summits ranged one behind the other.
“It is fair,” said the host, “that I should satisfy your curiosity, and the rather as I feel, in your case, that you are capable of taking the marvellous seriously, if it rests upon a serious foundation. This religious institution, of which you still see the remains, was dedicated to the holy family, and in olden times, on account of many miracles, was renowned as a place of pilgrimage. The church was dedicated to the mother and the son. It was destroyed several centuries ago. The chapel, dedicated to the holy foster-father, has been preserved, as also the habitable part of the convent. The income for a great many years back has belonged to a secular prince, who keeps an agent up here, and that am I, the son of the former agent, who likewise succeeded his father in this office.
“St. Joseph, although all ecclesiastical honors had long ago ceased up here, had been so beneficent towards our family, that it is not to be wondered at, if they felt particularly well disposed towards him; and thence it came to pass, that at baptism I was called Joseph, whereby to a certain extent my manner of life was determined. I grew up, and if I became an associate of my father whilst he looked after the rents, still I clung quite as much, nay, even more affectionately, to my mother, who according to her means was fond of distributing relief, and through her kindly disposition and her good deeds was known and beloved on the whole mountain-side. She would send me, now here, and now there; at one time to fetch, at another to order, at another to look after; and I felt quite at home in this kind of charitable business.
“In general a mountain life has something more humanizing than life on the lowlands; inhabitants are closer together, or further apart, if you wish it; wants are smaller, but more pressing. Man is more thrown upon his own resources,—must learn to rely on his hands, on his feet. The laborer, postman, carrier, are all united in one and the same person; everybody also stands nearer to his neighbor, meets him oftener, and lives with him in a common sphere of activity.
“When I was still young, and my shoulders unable to carry much, it occurred to me to furnish a small donkey with baskets, and drive it before me up and down the steep footpaths. In the mountains, the ass is no such contemptible animal as in the lowlands, where the laborer who ploughs with horses thinks himself better than another who tears up the sod with oxen. And I trudged along behind my beast with all the less misgiving, that I had before noticed, in the chapel, that it had attained to the honor of carrying God and his mother. Still, this chapel was not then in the condition in which it is now. It was treated like an outbuilding, almost like a stable. Firewood, hurdles, tools, tubs and ladders, and all sorts of things, were heaped pell-mell together. It was fortunate that the paintings were situated so high, and that wainscot lasts a little while. But as a child I was especially fond of clambering here and there all about the wood, and looking at the pictures, which nobody could properly explain to me. Enough, I knew that the saint whose life was painted above was my namesake, and I congratulated myself on him, as much as if he had been my uncle. I grew up, and as it was a special condition that he who would lay claim to the profitable office of steward must exercise a trade, therefore, in accordance with the wish of my parents, who were anxious that I should one day inherit this excellent post, I was to learn a trade—and, moreover, such a one as would prove useful to the household up here.
“My father was a cooper by trade, and made everything of this sort of work that was necessary himself, whence accrued great advantage to himself and the whole family. But I could not make up my mind to follow him in this line. My inclination drew me irresistibly towards the carpenter’s trade, the implements of which I had from my youth seen so circumstantially and correctly painted by the side of my saint. I declared my wish; they did not oppose it, and the less so as the carpenter was often required by us for so many different constructions, and even because, if he has some ability and love for his work, the cabinet-maker’s and wood-carver’s arts, especially in forest districts, are closely allied to it. And what still more strengthened me in my higher designs was that picture, which, alas! now is almost entirely obliterated. As soon as you know what it is meant to represent, you will be able to make it out, when I take you to it presently. St. Joseph had been entrusted with nothing less than the making of a throne for King Herod. The gorgeous seat was to be placed between two specified pillars. Joseph carefully takes the measure of the breadth and height, and constructs a costly royal throne. But how astonished is he, how distracted, when he brings the chair of state: it is found to be too high and not wide enough. Now, as is well known, King Herod was not to be trifled with: the pious master-joiner is in the greatest embarrassment. The Christ-child, accustomed to accompany him everywhere, to carry his tools in childishly humble sport, sees his distress, and is immediately ready with advice and help. The wondrous Child desires his foster-father to take hold of the throne by one side. He seizes the other side of the carved work, and both begin to pull. With the greatest ease and as conveniently as if it had been of leather, the throne expands in breadth, loses proportionately in height, and fits most excellently to the place and position, to the greatest consolation of the reassured carpenter and to the perfect satisfaction of the king.*
“In my youth that throne was still quite easy to see, and from the remains of one side you will be able to observe that there was no lack of carved work, which indeed must have proved easier to the painter than it would have been to the carpenter, if it had been demanded of him.
“However, I had no misgivings in consequence, but looked upon the craft to which I had devoted myself in such a favorable light, that I could scarcely wait until they had put me into apprenticeship; which was all the more easy to effect, inasmuch as there lived in the neighborhood a master-carpenter who worked for the whole district, and who could employ several assistants and apprentices. Thus I remained near my parents, and continued to a certain extent my former life, whilst employing hours of leisure and holy-days for the charitable commissions with which my mother continued to charge me.
“In this way a few years passed,” continued the narrator. “I very soon understood the advantages of the craft; and my body, developed through work, was capable of undertaking anything required for the purpose. In addition, I discharged the former duties which I rendered to my good mother, or rather to the sick and needy. I went with my beast through the mountain, distributed the load punctually, and from grocers and merchants I took back with me what we lacked up here. My master was satisfied with me, and so were my parents. Already I had on my wanderings the pleasure of seeing many a house which I had helped to erect, which I had decorated. For it was especially this last—the notching of the beams, the carving of certain simple forms, the branding of ornamental figures, the red-coloring of certain cavities, by which a wooden mountain-house offers such a cheerful aspect,—all such performances were entrusted to me especially, because I showed myself best in the matter, always bearing in mind as I did the throne of Herod and its adornments.
“Among the help-worthy persons of whom my mother took particular care, the first place was especially awarded to young wives in expectation of childbed, as I by degrees could well observe, although in such cases it was usual to keep the messages a secret so far as I was concerned. In such cases I never had any direct commission, but everything went through the medium of a good woman who lived at no great distance down the valley, and who was called Frau Elizabeth. My mother, herself experienced in the art which rescues for life so many at the very entrance into life, was on unalterably good terms with Frau Elizabeth, and I often had to hear on all sides that many of our robust mountaineers had to thank both these women for their existence. The mystery with which Elizabeth every time received me, her reserved answers to my puzzling questions, which I myself did not understand, awoke in me a particular reverence for her and her house, which was in the highest degree clean, and seemed to me to represent a kind of little sanctuary.
“In the meanwhile, in consequence of my knowledge and skill in my trade, I had acquired a certain amount of influence in the family. As my father, in his quality of cooper, had provided for the cellar, so did I now care for house and home, and mended many injured portions of the ancient building. I particularly succeeded in restoring to domestic use certain dilapidated out-houses and coach-houses; and scarcely was this done, than I set about clearing and cleansing my beloved chapel. In a few days it had been put in order, almost as you see it; whereupon I set about restoring, in uniformity with the whole, the missing or injured parts of the panel-work. And you might perhaps take these folding-doors of the entrance to be rather old, but they are my own work. I have spent several years in carving them in hours of leisure, after I had in the first place neatly joined them into a whole by the aid of strong planks of oak. Whatever of the pictures had not up to that time been injured or obliterated, has also been preserved up to now; and I assisted the glazier at a new building on the condition that he restored the colored windows.
“If those pictures and thoughts on the life of the saint had occupied my imagination, so it all became only more deeply impressed upon me when I was able to consider the spot as once more a sanctuary, and while away the time in it, particularly in the summer, and meditate at leisure upon whatever I saw or imagined. I felt within me an irresistible inclination to imitate the saint; and, as similar circumstances cannot easily be called forth, I determined at least to begin to resemble him from below, as in fact I had already begun to do long ago by the use of the beast of burden. The little creature of which I had availed myself hitherto would not suffice me any longer. I found for myself a much finer animal, and was careful to get a well-constructed saddle, which was equally convenient for riding or for carrying goods. A pair of new baskets were procured, and a net with colored ribbons, tassels, and knots, mingled with chinking metal tags, adorned the neck of the long-eared creature, which was now soon able to vie with its prototype on the wall. It occurred to no one to mock me, when in this array I passed along the mountain; for people willingly allow benevolence a marvellous outward aspect.
“In the meantime the war, or rather its consequences, had approached our district, whilst on several occasions dangerous bands of runaway rascals collected together, and here and there perpetrated many a violent deed and much mischief. By a good system of country militia, patrols, and continuous vigilance, the evil was certainly very soon quelled; yet people too soon fell into carelessness again, and, before they had become aware of it, fresh mischiefs broke out.
“There had long been quiet in our district, and I with my sumpter beast went peacefully trudging along the accustomed paths, until, on a certain day, I came across the newly-sown clearing in the wood, and on the edge of the sunk fence I found sitting, or rather lying, a female figure. She seemed to be asleep or in a swoon. I attended to her, and when she opened her beautiful eyes, and sat up, she exclaimed passionately, ‘Where is he? Have you seen him?’
“ ‘Whom?’ I asked.
“She answered, ‘My husband!’
“Seeing how very youthful her aspect was, this answer was not expected by me; still, I continued to assist her only the more readily, and to assure her of my sympathy. I gathered that the two travellers had left their carriage at some distance, on account of the difficult carriage-road, in order to turn into a shorter foot-path. Close by the spot they had been assailed by armed men: her husband, whilst fighting, had got to some distance off. She had not been able to follow him far, and had been lying on this spot she did not know how long. She begged me imploringly to leave her and to hurry in search of her husband. She got upon her feet, and the most beautiful, the loveliest form stood before me; yet I could easily see that she was in a condition in which she might very soon need the assistance of my mother and Frau Elizabeth. We disputed for a while, for I wished first to take her to a place of safety; she wished first of all for news of her husband. She would not go far herself from the path he had taken, and all my representations would perhaps have proved fruitless, if a troop of our militia, which had turned out upon the news of fresh outrages, had not just then arrived through the forest. They were informed of what had happened; the necessary course was agreed upon, the place of meeting fixed, and thus the matter was so far set straight. I quickly hid my basket in a neighboring cave, which had already often served me as a storehouse, arranged my saddle into a comfortable seat, and lifted, not without a peculiar emotion, the lovely burden upon my willing beast, which was able by itself to find the familiar paths at once, and gave me an opportunity of walking along by her side.
“You may imagine, without my describing at length, in what a strange state of mind I was. What I so long had sought for I had really found. I felt as if I were dreaming, and then again, suddenly, as if I had awoke from a dream. This heavenly form, as I saw it hovering as it were in the air, and moving in front of the green trees, came before me now like some dream, which was called forth in my soul through those pictures in the chapel. Then, again, those pictures seemed to me to have been only dreams, which now resolved themselves into a beautiful reality. I questioned her on many things; she answered me gently and politely, as beseems a person of good standing, in trouble. She often begged me, when we reached some open height, to stand still, look round, and listen. She begged me with such grace, with such a deeply-imploring glance from beneath her long black eyelashes, that I had to do whatever was but possible: I actually climbed an isolated, tall, and branchless fir-tree. Never had this evidence of my dexterity been more welcome to me; never had I on holidays and at fair-times with greater satisfaction fetched down ribbons and silk handkerchiefs from similar altitudes. Yet this time I went, alas! without any prize; neither did I see or hear anything from above. At last she herself called to me to come down, and beckoned to me quite urgently with her hand; nay, when at length in sliding down I let go my hold at a considerable height and jumped down, she gave a cry, and a sweet friendliness overspread her face, when she saw me uninjured before her.
“Why should I detain you long with the hundred attentions with which I tried to make the whole way pleasant to her, in order to distract her thoughts. And how too could I?—for this is just the peculiar quality of true attentiveness, that for the moment it makes everything of nothing. To my own feeling, the flowers which I plucked for her, the distant landscapes which I showed her, the mountains, forests, which I named to her, were so many precious treasures, which I seemed to present to her in order to bring myself into relation with her, as one will try to do by the aid of gifts.
“She had already gained me for my whole life, when we arrived at our destination in front of that good woman’s door, and I at once saw a painful separation before me. Once more I cast a glance over her whole form, and when my eyes had reached her feet, I stooped down, as if I had to do something to the saddlegirth, and I kissed the prettiest shoe that I had ever seen in my life, but without her perceiving it. I helped her down, sprang up the steps and shouted into the house-door: ‘Frau Elizabeth, here is a visitor for you!’ The good woman came out, and I looked over her shoulders towards the house, when the lovely being, with charming sorrow and inward consciousness of pain, mounted the steps and then affectionately embraced my worthy old woman, and let her conduct her into the better room. They shut themselves within it, and I remained standing by my ass before the door, like one who has unladen costly goods, and has again become but a poor driver as before.
“I was still hesitating to leave the spot, for I was irresolute as to what I should do, when Frau Elizabeth came to the door and asked me to summon my mother to her, and then to go about the neighborhood and obtain if possible some news of the husband. ‘Mary begs you particularly to do this,’ said she.
“ ‘Can I not speak to her once more?’ answered I.
“ ‘That will not do,’ said Frau Elizabeth, and we parted.
“In a short time I reached our dwelling; my mother was ready to go down the very same evening and assist the young stranger. I hurried down to the lower district and hoped to obtain the most trustworthy news at the bailiff’s. But he was himself still in uncertainty, and as he knew me he invited me to spend the night with him. It seemed to me interminably long, and I constantly had the beautiful form before my eyes, as she sat rocking to and fro on the animal, and looked down at me with such a look of sorrowful friendliness. Every moment I hoped for news. I did not grudge, but wished for the preservation of the good husband, and yet could so gladly think of her as a widow. The flying detachment by degrees came together again, and after a number of varying reports the truth at last was made clear, that the carriage had been saved, but that the unfortunate husband had died of his wounds in the neighboring village. I also heard, that according to the previous arrangement some had gone to announce the sorrowful news to Frau Elizabeth. I had accordingly nothing more to do, or aid in, there, and yet a ceaseless impatience, a boundless longing, drove me back through mountain and forest to her door. It was night; the house was shut up. I saw light in the rooms, I saw shadows moving on the curtains, and so I sat down upon a bench opposite, continually on the point of knocking, and continually held back by various considerations.
“Yet why do I go on relating circumstantially what in point of fact has no interest. Enough! Even the next morning they did not let me into the house. They knew the sad occurrence, they did not want me any more; they sent me to my father, to my work; they did not answer my questions; they wanted to get rid of me.
“They had been treating me this way for a week, when at last Frau Elizabeth called me in. ‘Tread gently, my friend,’ she said; ‘but come in with good comfort!’ She led me into a cleanly apartment, where, in the corner, through the half-opened bed-curtains, I saw my fair one sitting. Frau Elizabeth went to her as if to announce me, lifted something from the bed and brought it towards me: a most beautiful boy wrapped in the whitest of linen. Frau Elizabeth held him just between me and his mother, and upon the spot there occurred to me the lily-stalk in the picture, growing out of the earth between Mary and Joseph,* in witness of a pure relationship. From that instant my heart was relieved of all oppression; I was sure of my aim and of my happiness. I could freely walk towards her, speak to her; I could bear her heavenly look, take the boy in my arms, and press a hearty kiss upon his brow.
“ ‘How I thank you for your affection for this orphan child!’ said the mother.
“I exclaimed, thoughtlessly, and passionately: ‘It is an orphan no longer, if you are willing!’
“Frau Elizabeth, wiser than I, took the infant from me, and managed to send me away.
“The recollection of that time still serves me constantly for my happiest diversion when I am obliged to roam through our mountains and valleys. I am still able to call to mind the smallest circumstance—which, however, it is but fair that I should spare you.
“Weeks passed by: Mary had recovered and I could see her more frequently. My intercourse with her was a series of services and attentions. Her family circumstances allowed her to live where she liked. At first she stayed with Frau Elizabeth; then she visited us, to thank my mother and me for so much friendly help. She was happy with us, and I flattered myself that this came to pass partly on my account. Yet, what I should have liked so much to say, and dared not say, was finally mooted in a strange and charming fashion when I took her into the chapel, which I had already transformed into a habitable hall. I showed and explained to her the pictures one after the other, and in so doing I expatiated in such a vivid heartfelt manner upon the duties of a foster-father, that tears came into her eyes, and I could not get to the end of my description of the pictures. I thought myself sure of her affection, although I was not presumptuous enough to wish to blot out so soon the memory of her husband. The law compels widows to one year of mourning; and certainly such a period, which comprehends within it the change of all earthly things, is necessary to a sensitive heart, in order to soothe the painful impressions of a great loss. One sees the flowers fade and the leaves fall, but one also sees fruits ripen and fresh buds germinate. Life belongs to the living, and he who lives must be prepared for a change.
“I now spoke to my mother about the matter which I had most at heart. She thereupon revealed to me how painful the death of her husband had been to Mary, and how she had recovered again only at the thought that she must live for the sake of the child. My attachment had not remained unknown to the women, and Mary had already familiarized herself with the notion of living with us. She stayed some time longer in the neighborhood, then she came up here to us, and we lived for a while longer in the godliest and happiest state of betrothal. At last we were united. That first feeling which had brought us together did not disappear. The duties and joys of foster-father and father were combined; and thus our little family, as it increased, surpassed indeed its pattern in the number of its individuals, but the virtues of that example, in truth and purity of mind, were kept holy and practised by us. And hence also we maintain with kindly habitude the outward appearance which we have accidentally acquired, and which suits so well our inward disposition; for although we are all good walkers and sturdy carriers, yet the beast of burden remains constantly in our company, in order to carry one thing or another, when business or a visit obliges us to go through these mountains and valleys. As you met us yesterday, so the whole neighborhood knows us; and we are proud of the fact that our conduct is of a kind not to shame those holy names and persons whom we profess to follow.”
[* ] This story is substantially the same as one given in the first Gospel of the Infancy of Christ, which was received as authentic by the Gnostics of the second century. The same apocryphal book gives various details of the Flight into Egypt, which St. Matthew so briefly records.—Ed.
[* ] The lily-stalk, of course, referred to the well-known legend of the budding of St. Joseph’s rod, when he presented himself as a suitor for Mary—the subject of many early paintings. The legend is probably derived from the uncanonical Gospel of the Birth of Mary given by St. Jerome.—Ed.