Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAPTER I. - Goethe's Works, vol. 5 (W. Meister's Travels; Elective Affinities)
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CHAPTER I. - 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.
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After all this, and whatever followed upon it, Wilhelm’s first anxiety was to come into contact again with the guild-brethren, and to meet with some portion or other of them, wherever it might be. He therefore consulted his little diagram, and took the road which promised to bring him sooner than the others to his goal. But since, in order to reach the most favorable point, it was necessary for him to go across country, he found himself obliged to make the journey on foot, and to have his baggage carried after him. However, at every step he was richly rewarded for his walk, for he encountered unexpectedly the most lovely scenery. It was such as the last mountainous tracts form as they merge into the plains—wooded hills, gentle declivities used for husbandry, all the surfaces green, and nowhere aught that was rugged, unfruitful, or untilled to be seen. He now arrived at the main valley, into which the tributary streams poured themselves; this, too, was carefully tilled, and pleasant to behold: slender trees marked the bends of the river that flowed through it, and of the streams that poured into it; and when he took up the map that was his guide, he saw, to his astonishment, that the line drawn upon it cut right through this valley, and that thus he was at any rate upon the right path.
An old castle, in a good state of preservation, having been renovated at various periods, was conspicuous upon a woody hill; spreading outward from its foot lay a cheerful-looking village, in which an inn that stood out prominently caught the eye. He walked up to the latter, and was received in a very friendly manner by the host, but with the excuse that he could not take him in without the permission of a party who had hired the whole house for a time, on which account he was obliged to refer all guests to the older hostelry, that lay farther up.
After a short parley, the man seemed to think better of it, and said, “As a matter of fact, there is no one as yet in the house; but it happens to be Saturday, and it cannot be long before the bailiff, who settles the accounts every week and gives his orders for the next, arrives. In truth there is a nice regularity amongst these people, and it is a pleasure to deal with them, although they are rather close. For if there certainly is no great profit, it is a sure one.” Therewith he bade the new guest remain patiently in the large upper hall, and await what further might occur.
Here he found, on entering, a spacious and neat apartment, quite empty but for benches and tables; so much the more did he wonder on seeing a large tablet placed above a door, upon which, in letters of gold, were to be read the words Ubi homines sunt, modi sunt, which we interpret to the effect that wherever men meet together in social life, there the way and fashion in which they can exist and remain together are evolved. This motto gave our wanderer food for thought; he took it as a good omen, that here he found confirmed what he had often in the course of his life recognized as reasonable and helpful. It was not long before the bailiff made his appearance, who, having been instructed beforehand, admitted him, after a short conversation and no particular investigation, on the following conditions: that he should stay three days, should quietly take part in all that went on, and, whatever might happen, should not inquire the reason, and still less should not, on his departure, ask for the reckoning. All this the traveller was forced to agree to, since the deputy, as such, could not give in in any point.
The bailiff was just about to depart, when a song resounded up the stairs: two beautiful young men approached singing, whom the bailiff by a simple sign gave to understand that the guest was accepted. Without interrupting their song, they greeted him kindly, gracefully singing a duet, and it was easy to see that they were in perfect practice, and masters of their craft. As Wilhelm showed the most attentive appreciation, they stopped and asked him whether in his travels on foot he too had not often hit upon some song that he thus sang aloud to himself.
“A good voice,” answered Wilhelm, “has in fact been denied me by nature, but a hidden genius within me often seems to inspire me with something rhythmic, so that in walking I move constantly in time, and at the same time seem to perceive soft tones by which some song is accompanied, that in one way or another pleasantly presents itself to me.”
“If you remember any one of the sort, write it down for us,” said he; “we should like to see whether we are able to accompany your singing daimon.”
Hereupon he took a leaf from his notebook and handed them the following stanza:
After a short time for thought there forthwith sounded a lively duet, timed to marching pace, which, with all repetition and abridgment, went constantly forward and carried away the hearers with it; he was in doubt whether this was his own melody, his former theme, or whether it was only now so adapted to it that no other movement was conceivable. In this way the singers had proceeded pleasantly for some time, when two sturdy fellows entered, whom one recognized at once by their attributes as masons; but two who followed them, one must needs regard as carpenters. These four, gently laying down their tools, listened to the song, and presently joined in with sureness and decision, so that one had the sensation of a whole company of travellers marching onward over mountain and valley, and Wilhelm thought that he had never heard anything so graceful and so elevating to heart and mind. This enjoyment, however, was to be further increased and heightened to the last degree, when a gigantic figure mounted the steps, and with the best intentions was scarcely able to moderate his powerful, heavy tread. He proceeded to stand a heavily-packed porter’s frame in the corner, but sat himself down upon a bench, which began to crack—at which the others laughed, yet without falling out of the song. But very much astonished was Wilhelm when this son of Anak immediately began to join in with a tremendous bass voice. The hall trembled, and it was noticeable that he, in his part, at once altered the refrain, and sang it, in fact, in this shape:
Moreover, one could very soon see that he brought down the time to a slower pace, and obliged the others to adapt themselves to him. When at length they had come to an end, and had fully satisfied themselves, the others upbraided him as if he had tried to mislead them.
“Not at all,” he exclaimed; “it is you who tried to mislead me: you were for throwing me out of my step, which must be measured and sure when I trudge with my burden up hill and down dale, and yet must at last come at the appointed hour and satisfy you.”
One after the other now went in to the bailiff, and Wilhelm could easily see that the business was about settling accounts, as to which he did not venture to make further inquiry. In the meantime there came a couple of lively, handsome boys, who laid a table in haste, providing it moderately with eatables and wine, to which the bailiff, who came out of his room, now invited all to sit down with him. The boys waited upon them, but they did not forget to look after themselves too, and ate their share standing. Wilhelm called to mind similar scenes when he still dwelt amongst the actors; but the present party seemed to him much more earnest, intent not on amusement in representation, but on important aims in life.
The conversation between the craftsmen and the bailiff gave the guest the clearest knowledge on this point. The four sturdy young fellows were employed in the neighborhood, where a destructive fire had laid a most beautiful country-town in ashes; nor did he fail to hear that the honest bailiff was engaged in procuring timber and other building materials. This seemed the more inexplicable to the guest, inasmuch as the men, one and all, were not natives of the place, but in every other respect were evidently passing travellers. At the end of the meal St. Christopher, for so they named the giant, fetched from one side a good glass of wine, by way of a sleeping-draught, and a lively song held the party together for a time, for the ear, when for the eye they had already dispersed. Wilhelm, thereupon, was conducted to a chamber of most pleasant aspect. The full-moon, illuminating a luxuriant plain, was already up, and awakened in the breast of our wanderer recollections of similar and equally beautiful scenes. The spirits of all his dear friends passed in procession before him; but Lenardo’s figure especially was so life-like to him, that he fancied he saw him standing actually before him. All this was giving him an inward disposition for his nightly rest, when he was almost frightened by a most extraordinary noise. It sounded from the distance, and yet seemed to be in the house itself, for the house frequently shook, and the timbers groaned when the sound mounted to its highest strength. Wilhelm, who in general had a delicate ear to distinguish all sounds, could make nothing of it; he compared it with the droning of a large organ-pipe, that from sheer size is unable to give out any definite tone. Whether this night-terror ceased towards morning, or whether Wilhelm, by degrees accustomed to it, was no longer sensible of it, is difficult to ascertain;* in fine, he fell asleep, and was pleasantly aroused by the rising sun.
Scarcely had one of the waiting-boys brought him breakfast, when a figure entered whom he had noticed at supper, without being clear as to his peculiar qualities. He was a well-built, broad-shouldered, and active man withal, who by his implements exhibited to view announced himself as a barber, and made himself ready to render to Wilhelm this so requisite service. At the same time he remained silent, and the business was accomplished with a very light hand, without his having emitted a single sound.
Wilhelm therefore began, and said, “You are a master-hand at your business, and I do not know that I have ever felt a gentler blade upon my cheeks; but at the same time you seem to pay strict observance to the laws of the society.”
With a sly smile, and laying his finger on his lips, he slipped mutely out of the door.
“In very truth,” called Wilhelm after him, “you must be ‘Redcloak,’† or, if not himself, at least a descendant of his. It is fortunate for you that you do not require a return of your service from me. You would have come off badly.”
Scarcely had this extraordinary man departed when our friend the bailiff entered, proffering an invitation to dinner that midday, which also ran somewhat strangely. The Bond—so the inviter expressly stated—bade the friend welcome, invited him to the mid-day meal, and flattered itself with the hope of coming into nearer relations with him. It further inquired after the guest’s well-being, and how he was satisfied with the accommodation, to which he could only reply with praise of everything that he had encountered. It is true that he would have liked to inquire of this man, as of the mute barber before, about the horrible noise which had disturbed, if not distressed him in the night; yet, mindful of his promise, he refrained from every question, and hoped, without being importunate, to be enlightened in accordance with his wishes, either through the complaisance of the society or by some chance.
When our friend found himself alone, he at last began to think about the strange person who had sent him the invitation, and he did not know what to make of it. To designate one or more leaders by means of a neuter substantive, seemed to him rather dubious. For the rest, all was so quiet about him here that he thought he had never spent a quieter Sunday. He went out of doors; but hearing the sound of bells, he walked towards the little town. Mass was just over, and amongst the townsfolk and the peasants who were thronging out he saw the three acquaintances of yesterday, a journeyman carpenter, a mason, and a boy. Later he noticed amongst the Protestant worshippers the three others. What form of worship the others professed remained unknown to him: thus much, however, he was confident in concluding, that in this society a very decided freedom in religion prevailed.
At noon the bailiff came to meet him at the castle-door, to conduct him through various halls into a large vestibule, where he bade him sit down. A good many people kept walking past into an adjoining saloon. Those he knew already were to be seen amongst them; even St. Christopher went by. They all greeted the bailiff and the visitor. What struck our friend here most, was that he seemed to see none but artisans; all clad in their ordinary dress, but with extreme neatness; there were few whom, at best, he would have taken to be of the scrivener class.
As soon as no new guests continued to press in, the bailiff led our friend through the stately portal into a spacious hall. There an interminably long table was spread, from the lower end of which he was conducted to the top, across which he saw three persons standing. But with what astonishment was he seized, when he came near, and Lenardo, hardly yet recognized, fell upon his neck. He had scarcely recovered from this surprise, when another person embraced Wilhelm no less ardently and vigorously, and proclaimed himself to be Natalia’s brother, the wonderful Friedrich. The delight of the friends infected the whole assembly: words of congratulation and blessing re-echoed along the whole table. But of a sudden, when they were seated, all was still, and the repast was served up, and eaten with a certain solemnity.
Towards the end of the meal Lenardo gave a signal. Two singers stood up, and Wilhelm was much surprised to hear repeated his song of yesterday, which we find it necessary, on account of what immediately follows, to insert once more:
Hardly had this duet, accompanied by a chorus of agreeable strength, approached its end, when two other singers impetuously rose opposite to each other, and with serious emphasis paraphrased rather than continued the song; and to the astonishment of the guest expressed themselves thus:
The chorus striking into this strophe became more and more numerous, more and more powerful, and yet the voice of St. Christopher could soon be distinguished from the lower end of the table. The dirge swelled till at last it was almost terrible; a weird mood, by dint of skill on the part of the singers, introduced something fugue-like into the whole, so that our friend felt as if he should shudder. They all really seemed as if they were completely of one mind, and were lamenting their own destiny just before their separation. The strangest repetitions, the frequent revival of an almost expiring song, seemed at last dangerous to the band itself. Lenardo stood up, and all, breaking off the hymn, immediately sat down.
He began, with kindly words: “In truth I cannot blame you for making ever present to yourselves the fate that confronts us all, so that you may be prepared for it at any hour. Yet if men weary of life, and full of years, have cried to their brethren, ‘Think of dying!’* so ought we, we younger men full of life, to be ever encouraging each other, and admonish ourselves with the cheering words ‘Think of wandering!’ But it were well, withal, to mention with caution and cheerfulness, whatever we either undertake voluntarily, or think that we are constrained to do. You know best what amongst us is fixed, and what is movable; allow us to enjoy this too in glad encouraging strains, to which for this time let this parting glass be drunk!”
Thereupon he emptied his goblet and sat down: the four singers thereupon stood up, and began in flowing self-connecting tones—
On the repetition of the chorus Lenardo stood up, and all the rest with him; a signal from him set the whole table in motion in time with the singing: those at the lower end, headed by St. Christopher, marched out of the hall in pairs, and the harmonious wanderers’ song grew more and more joyous and free: but it sounded especially well when the party, assembled in the terraced castle-garden, looked over the spacious valley in the luxuriance and beauty of which one might well have wished to lose one’s self. Whilst they were dispersing themselves on this side or that at their pleasure, Wilhelm was made acquainted with the third superior. He was the bailiff, who, in addition to many other advantages, had been able to procure for this society, as long as they found it convenient to stay here, the use of the count’s castle, which lay amidst several noblemen’s manors: but on the other hand, being a clever man, had managed to turn the presence of such unwonted guests to good account. For whilst for a moderate payment he opened his nurseries, and was able to provide aught else that was helpful for support of life or in time of need, he took the same opportunity of having long-neglected roofs changed, rafters replaced, walls propped, planks set straight, and other defects repaired, to such a degree, that a property belonging to an expiring family, long neglected and falling into decay, preserved the cheerful aspect of a dwelling used for living in, and bore witness that life creates life, and that he who is useful to others, also puts them under the necessity of being of use to him.
[* ] No further information is given. Düntzer supposes that some diversion of “St. Christopher’s” is suggested.—Ed.
[† ] The spectral barber in Musaeus’s tale ‘Stumme Liebe:’ he wears a scarlet cloak on his left shoulder; and after completing an operation he claims a like service in return.—D.
[* ]Memento mori was the salutation of the Trappist monks.—D.