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But, as such, the Romantics, Milton, and the “Satanic” or Byronic Hero have been much on my mind of late.
Excerpt from Appendix C to “The Statesman’s Manual, or The Bible the Best Guide to Political Skill and Foresight” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge – 1816..
Satan Arousing the Rebel Angels
But in its utmost abstraction and consequent state of reprobation, the Will becomes satanic pride and rebellious self-idolatry in the relations of the spirit to itself, and remorseless despotism relatively to others; the more hopeless as the more obdurate by its subjugation of sensual impulses, by its superiority to toil and pain and pleasure.
In short, by the fearful resolve to find in itself alone the one absolute motive of action, under which all other motives from within and from without must be either subordinated or crushed.
This is the character which Milton has so philosophically as well as sublimely embodied in the Satan of his Paradise Lost. Alas! too often has it been embodied in real life!
Too often has it given a dark and savage grandeur to the historic page! And wherever it has appeared, under whatever circumstances of time and country, the same ingredients have gone to its composition; and it has been identified by the same attributes.
Hope in which there is no cheerfulness; steadfastness within and immovable resolve, with outward restlessness and whirling activity; violence with guile; temerity with cunning; and, as the result of all, interminableness of object with perfect indifference of means; these are the qualities that have constituted the commanding genius!
These are the marks that have characterized the masters of mischief, the liberticides, and mighty hunters of mankind, from Nimrodto Napoleon. And from inattention to the possibility of such a character as well as from ignorance of its elements, even men of honest intentions too frequently become fascinated.
Nay, whole nations have been so far duped by this want of insight and reflection as to regard with palliative admiration, instead of wonder and abhorrence, the Molocks of human nature, who are indebted, for the far larger portion of their meteoric success, to their total want of principle, and who surpass the generality of their fellow creatures in one act of courage only, that of daring to say with their whole heart, “Evil, be thou my good!
by Matthäus Kasimir von Collin (1779-1824), “Nachtfeier”
By Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828), “Nacht und Träume”, op. 43 no. 2, D. 827 (1822?), published 1825. Translation © by KarenL.
Nacht und Träume
Holy night, you sink down;
Dreams also float down
As your moonlight fills the room,
Fills the sleeping hearts of men.
They listen with pleasure;
Crying, when the day awakes:
Return, fair night!
Fair dreams, return!
Excerpt, “The Sonnets of Europe.” A Volume of Translations, selected and arranged, with notes, by Samuel Waddington. 1886.
Excerpt, “A Book of Ballads from the German.” Translated by Percy Boyd, Esq. 1848.
THE WOMEN OF WEINSBERG
It was the good King Konrad with all his army lay
Before the town of Weinsberg full many a weary day;
The Guelph at last was vanquished, but still the town held out;
The bold and fearless burghers they fought with courage stout.
But then came hunger, hunger! That was a grievous guest;
They went to ask for favor, but anger met their quest.
"Through you the dust hath bitten full many a worthy knight,
And if your gates you open, the sword shall you requite!"
Then came the women, praying: "Let be as thou hast said,
Yet give us women quarter, for we no blood have shed!"
At sight of these poor wretches the hero's anger failed,
And soft compassion entered and in his heart prevailed.
"The women shall be pardoned, and each with her shall bear
As much as she can carry of her most precious ware;
The women with their burdens unhindered forth shall go,
Such is our royal judgment--we swear it shall be so!"
At early dawn next morning, ere yet the east was bright,
The soldiers saw advancing a strange and wondrous sight;
The gate swung slowly open, and from the vanquished town
Forth swayed a long procession of women weighted down;
For perched upon her shoulders each did her husband bear--
That was the thing most precious of all her household ware.
"We'll stop the treacherous women!" cried all with one intent;
The chancellor he shouted: "This was not what we meant!"
But when they told King Konrad, the good King laughed aloud;
"If this was not our meaning, they've made it so," he vowed,
"A promise is a promise, our loyal word was pledge;
It stands, and no Lord Chancellor may quibble or map hedge."
Thus was the royal scutcheon kept free from stain or blot!
The story has descended from days now half forgot;
'Twas eleven hundred and forty this happened, as I've heard,
The flower of German princes thought shame to break his word.
Translated by Kate Freiligrath-Kroeker
Prussian Cuirassiers at Battle of Gravelotte – Franco-Prussian War
Juliusz Kossak, 1871
Die Trompete von Gravelotte
Aug. 16, 1870
Death and Destruction they belched forth in vain,
We grimly defied their thunder;
Two columns of foot and batteries twain,
We rode and cleft them asunder.
With brandished sabres, with reins all slack,
Raised standards, and low-couched lances,
Thus we Uhlans and Cuirassiers wildly drove back,
And hotly repelled their advances.
But the ride was a ride of death and of blood;
With our thrusts we forced them to sever;
But of two whole regiments, lusty and good,
Out of two men, one rose never.
With breast shot through, with brow gaping wide,
They lay pale and cold in the valley,
Snatched away in their youth, in their manhood's pride--
Now, Trumpeter, sound to the rally!
And he took the trumpet, whose angry thrill
Urged us on to the glorious battle,
And he blew a blast--but all silent and still
Was the trump, save a dull hoarse rattle,
Save a voiceless wail, save a cry of woe,
That burst forth in fitful throbbing--
A bullet had pierced its metal through,
For the Dead the wounded was sobbing!
For the faithful, the brave, for our brethren all,
For the Watch on the Rhine, true-hearted!
Oh, the sound cut into our inmost soul!--
It brokenly wailed the Departed!
And now fell the night, and we galloped past,
Watch-fires were flaring and flying,
Our chargers snorted, the rain poured fast--
And we thought of the Dead and the Dying!
Excerpt, “The Poetry of Germany, Consisting from Upwards of Seventy of the Most Celebrated Poets.” Translated into English Verse by Alfred Baskerville. 1853.
The Right Word
Deep ’neath the Rhine’s green billow
A golden treasure lies,
Knew’st thou the spell of magic
’Twould at thy voice arise;
That magic word which holdeth,
With but a single sound,
The mighty torrent’s surges,
As if in fetters bound.
Deep in the valley buried
A sword all-conqu’ring lies,
And he who can possess it
Against the world may rise.
One word must first be spoken,
The earth then opens, and lo!
From out her rocky chambers
The steel will brightly glow.
And there on yonder mountains,
Deep in the shaft profound,
By dwarfs and gnomes well guarded,
There may a key be found;
It opens every portal,
For ever ’tis thy own,
Know’st thou ’mong words unnumbered
That one right word alone.
How have I mused already
In vain so long, so long,
Till, word by word commencing,
It ended in a song!
But still as yet lie hidden
That treasure, key, and sword,
And what I sang so often
Was never the right word.
Excerpt, “Lay of the Minnesingers, or German Troubadours of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries.” London: 1825. Translator: Edgar Taylor.
Like the sun’s uprising light
Shines that maid, before whom fade
Other charms, however bright;
As the stars at break of day,
Late so brilliant, fade away.
When my spirit light had flown
Wanton forth in pleasure’s quest,
Then those beaming have shone
O’er the rover’s path, and led
Home to her from whom it sped.
When again its wing it took
Falcon-like for joy to soar,
Ne’er the gentle spell it broke;
Soon again it sought its home
In that breast it wandered from.
O’er its fear was ever coming
Lest its mistress, at the thought
That for other loves ‘t was roaming,
Vengeful all its joys might blight;
Therefore back it winged its flight.‘
Théodore Géricault by Alexandre Colin, 1816.
And yet the essential element of him,
As of all such men,
Is not scorching fire…
But shining illuminative light.
1814 – The Wounded Cuirassier
Portrait of Lord Byron
The Kiss 1822
Cheval Gris Pommele
Horse-Market: Five-Horses-at-the-Stake 1816-19
Marie de Medici.
CHAMOUNY AT SUNRISE
.From the deep shadow of the silent fir-grove,
I lift my eyes, and trembling look on thee,
Brow of eternity, thou dazzling peak,
From whose calm height my dreaming spirit mounts
And sours away into the infinite!
Who sank the pillar in the lap of earth,
Down deep, the pillar of eternal rock,
On which thy mass stands firm, and firm hath stood,
While centuries on centuries rolled along?
Who reared, up-towering through the vaulted blue,
Mighty and bold, thy radiant countenance?
Who poured you from on-high with thunder-sound.
Down from old winter’s everlasting realm,
O jagged streams, over rock and through ravine?
And whose almighty voice commanded loud,
“Here shall the stiffening billows rest awhile!”
Whose finger points yon morning star his course?
Who fringed with blossom-wreaths the eternal frost?
Whose name, O wild Arveiron , does thy din
Of waves sound out in dreadful harmonies?
“Jehovah!” crashes in the burning ice;
Down through the gorge the rolling avalanche
Carries the word in thunder to the vales.
“Jehovah!” murmurs in the morning breeze.
Along the trembling tree-tops; down below
It whispers in the purling, silvery brooks.
Frederike Sophie Christiane Brun
Excerpt, “The Lock and Key Library: Classic Mystery and Detective Stories – German.” Edited by Julian Hawthorne, 1909.
Melanchthon was dancing with the Bat, whose costume represented her in an inverted position. the wings were folded close to the body, and in the claws she held a large gold hoop upright, which gave the impression that she was hanging, suspended from some imaginary point. The effect was grotesque, and it amused Melanchthon very much, for he had to peep through this gold hoop, which was exactly on a level with his face, while dancing with the Bat.
She was one of the most original masks — and at the same time one of the most repelling ones — at the fete of the Persian prince. She had even impressed his highness, Mohammed Darasche-Koh, the host.
“I know you, pretty one,” he had nodded to her, much to the amusement of the bystanders.
“It is certainly the little marquise, the intimate friend of the princess,” declared a Dutch councilor in a Rembrandt costume. He surmised this because she knew every turn and corner of the palace, to judge by her conversation. And but a few moments ago, when some cavalier had ordered felt boots and torches so that they might go down into the courtyard and indulge in snowballing, the Bat joined them and participated wildly in the game. It was then — and the Dutchman was quite ready to back it with a wager — that he had seen a well-known bracelet on her wrist.
“Oh, how interesting,” exclaimed a Blue Butterfly. “Couldn’t Melanchthon discreetly discover whether or not Count Faast is a slave of the princess?”
“Don’t speak so loud,” interrupted the Dutch councilor. “It is a mighty good thing that the orchestra played the close of that waltz fortissimo, for the prince was standing here only a moment since.”
“Better not speak of such things,” whispered an Egyptian, “for the jealousy of this Asiatic prince knows no bounds, and there are probably more explosives in the palace than we dream. Count de Faast has been playing with fire too long, and if Darasche-Koh suspects…”
A rough figure representing a huge knot dashed by them in wild flight to escape a Hellenic warrior in shimmering armour.
“If you were the Gordian knot, Mynherr, and were pursued by Alexander the Great, wouldn’t you be frightened?” teased the inverted Bat, tapping the Dutchman coquettishly on the end of the nose with her fan.
“The sharp wit of the pretty Marquise Bat betrays her,” smiled a lanky Satan with tail and cloven foot. “What a pity that only as a Bat are you to be seen with your feet in the air.”
The dull sound of a gong filled the room as an executioner appeared, draped in a crimson robe. He tapped a bronze gong, and then, resting his weight on his glittering cudgel, posed himself in the center of the big hall.
Out of every niche and lobby the maskers streamed toward him — harlequins, cannibals, an ibis, and some Chinese, Don Quixotes, Columbines, bayaderes and dominoes of all colors.
The crimson executioner distributed tablets of ivory inscribed with gold letters. “Oh, programmes for the entertainment!” chorused the crowd.
“THE MAN ON THE BOTTLE”
Marionette Comedy in the Spirit of Aubrey Beardsley
By Prince Mohammed Darasche-Koh
The Man in the Bottle …. Miguel, Count de Faast
The Man on the Bottle …. Prince Mohammed Darasche-Koh
The Lady in the Sudan Chair ….. ???
Vampires, Marionettes, Hunchbacks, Apes, Musicians
Scene of Action: A Tiger’s Maw
“What! The prince the author of this marionette play?”
“Probably a scene out of the “Thousand and One Nights.”
“But who will play the part of the Lady in the Sedan Chair?”
“Oh, there is a great surprise in store for us,” twittered a seductive Incroyable, leaning on the arm of an Abbe. “Do you know, the Pierrot with whom I danced the tarantelle was the Count de Faast, who is going to play the Man in the Bottle; and he confided a lot of things to me: the marionettes will be very grewsome — that is, for those who appreciate the spirit of the thing — and the prince had an elephant sent down from Hamburg — but you are not listening to me at all!” And the little one dropped the arm of her escort and bolted into the swirling crowd.
New groups of masks constantly poured out of the adjoining rooms through the wide doorways into the big hall, making a kaleidoscopic play of colors, while files of costumed guests stood admiring the wonderful mural frescoes that rose to the blue, star-dotted ceiling. Attendants served refreshments, sorbets and wines in the window niches.
With a rolling sound, the walls of the narrow end of the hall separated and a stage was pushed slowly into view. Its setting, in red brown and a flaming yellow proscenium, was a yawning tiger’s maw, the white teeth glittering above and below.
In the middle of the scene stood a huge glass bottle in the form of a globe, with walls at least a foot thick. It was about twice the height of an average man and very roomy. The back of the scene was draped with pink silk hangings.
Then the colossal ebony doors of the hall opened and admitted a richly caparisoned elephant, which advanced with majestic tread. On its head sat the crimson executioner guiding the beast with the butt of the cudgel. Chains of amethysts dangled from the elephant’s tusks, and plumes of peacock feathers nodded from its head. Heavily embroidered gold cloths streamed down from the back of the beast, skirting the floor; across its enormous forehead there was a network of sparkling jewels.
The maskers flocked around the advancing beast, shouting greetings to the gay group of actors seated in the palanquin; Prince Darasche-Koh with turban and aigrette, Count de Faast as Pierrot, marionettes and musicians, stiff as wooden puppets. The elephant reached the stage, and with its trunked lifted one man after another from its back. There was much applause and a yell of delight as the beast seized the Pierrot and sliding him into the neck of the bottle, closed the metal top. Then the Persian prince was placed on top of the bottle.
The musicians seated themselves in a semicircle, drawing forth strange, slender instruments. The elephant gazed at them a moment, then turned about and strode toward the door. Like a lot of happy children, the maskers clung to its trunk, ears, and tusks and tried to hold it back; but the animal seemed not to feel their weight at all.
The performance began, and somewhere, as if out of the ground, there arose weird music. The puppet orchestra of marionettes remained lifeless and waxen; the flute player stared with glassy, idiotic eyes at the ceiling; the features of the rococo conductor in peruke and plumed hat, holding the baton aloft and pressing a pointed finger mysteriously to his lips, were distorted by a shrewd, uncanny smile. In the foreground posed the marionettes. Here were grouped a humpbacked dwarf with chalky face, a gray grinning devil, and a sallow rouged actress with carmine lips. The three seemed possessed of some satanic secret that had paralyzed their movements. The semblance of death brooded over the entire motionless group.
The Pierrot in the bottle now began to move restlessly. He doffed his white felt hat, bowed and occasionally greeted the Persian prince, who with crossed legs sat on the cap of the bottle. His antics amused the audience. The thick walls of glass distorted his appearance curiously; sometimes his eyes seemed to pop out of his head; then again they disappeared, and one saw only forehead and chin; sometimes he was fat and bloated, then again slender with long legs like a spider’s.
In the midst of a motionless pause the red silk hangings of the background parted, and a closed sedan chair was carried on by two Moors, who placed it near the bottle. A ray of pale light from above now illuminated the scene. The spectators had formed themselves into two camps. The one was speechless under the spell of this vampiric, enigmatic marionette play that seemed to exhale an atmosphere of poisoned merriment; the other group, not sensitive enough to appreciate such a scene, laughed immoderately at the comical capering of the man in the bottle.
He had given up his merry dancing and was trying by every possible means to impart some information or other to the prince sitting on the cap. He pounded the walls of the bottle as though he would smash them; and to all appearances he was screaming at the top of his voice, although not the slightest sound penetrated the thick glass.
The Persian prince acknowledged the movements of the Pierrot with a smile pointing with his finger at the sedan chair.
The curiosity of the audience reached its climax when it saw that the Pierrot had pressed his face against the glass and was staring at something in the window of the sedan chair. Then suddenly, like one gone mad, he beat his face with his hands, sank on his knees and tore his hair. Then he sprang furiously up and raced around the bottle at such speed that the audience saw only a fluttering cloth in his wake.
The secret of the Lady in the Sedan Chair puzzled the audience considerably — they could only see that a white face was pressed against the window of the chair and was staring over at the bottle. Shadows cut off all further view.
Laughter and applause rose to a tumult. Pierrot had crouched on the bottom of the bottle, his fingers clutching his throat. Then he opened his mouth wide and pointed in wild frenzy to his chest and then to the one sitting above. He folded his hands in supplicaton, as though he were begging something from the audience.
“He wants something to drink! Such a large bottle and no wine in it? I say, you marionettes, give him a drink,” cried one of the maskers.
Everybody laughed and applauded.
Then the Pierrot jumped up once more, tore his garments from his chest and staggered about until he measured his length on the bottom of the bottle.
“Bravo, bravo, Pierrot! Wonderfully acted!” yelled the maskers.
When the man in the bottle did not stir again and made no effort to repeat his scene, the applause gradually subsided and the attention of the spectators was drawn to the marionettes. They still remained motionless in the poses they had assumed, but in their miens there was now a sense of expectancy that had not been there before. It seemed as if they were waiting for a cue.
The humpbacked dwarf, with the chalked face, turned his eyes carefully and gazed at the Prince Darasche-Koh. The Persian did not stir.
Finally, two figures advanced from the background, and one of the Moors haltingly approached the sedan chair and opened the door.
And then something very remarkable occurred — the body of a woman fell stiffly out on the stage. There was a moment of deathly silence and then a thousand voices arose: “What has happened?”
Marionettes, apes, musicians all leaped forward; maskers climbed up on the stage.
The princess, wife of Darasche-Koh, lay there strapped to a steel frame. Where the ropes had cut into her flesh were blue bruises, and in her mouth there was a silk gag.
A nameless horror took possession of the audience.
“Pierrot!” a voice suddenly shrilled. “Pierrot!” Like a dagger, indescribable fear penetrated every heart.
“Where is the prince?”
During the tumult, the Persian had disappeared.
Melanchthon stood on the shoulders of Mephisto, but he could not lift the cap on the bottle, and the air valve was screwed tightly shut.
“Break the walls of the bottle! Quick!”
The Dutch councilor tore the cudgel from the hand of the crimson executioner and with a leap landed on the stage.
A grewsome sound arose, like the toiling of a cracked bell. Like streaks of white lightning the cracks leaped across the surface of the glass. Finally the bottle was splintered into bits. And within it lay the body of the Count de Faast , his fingers clawing his breast.
Silently and with invisible pinions the gigantic ebony birds of terror streaked through the hall of the fete.
Excerpt, “A Metrical History of the Life and Times of Napoleon Bonaparte.” Editor William J. Hillis. New York: 1896.
Whatever his inclination may have been, Napoleon was not to be permitted to rest. Pitt, his greatest enemy, it is true, was dead, and Fox, his friend, had come into power in the English Cabinet, but this state of affairs was not to last. Fox dying, England succeeded in forming a new coalition between Russia, Prussia, and herself, and war was again declared against France.
Jena, Eylau, and Friedland, were the answer Napoleon gave to this challenge, and bitterly did Prussia, especially, pay for her rash attempt to free herself from the toils of the French conqueror. But the seed was being sown which was to bring forth victory and revenge for Prussia and all Germany. Defeat and humiliation were bringing to the surface those brave, unflinching spirits that nothing could conquer.
Had Frederick William been endowed with the same positive mind and courageous heart which Louisa, the Queen, possessed, the dawn of victory might have come sooner to that unhappy country. It took such soldiers as “Old Father Blucher” and such indomitable courage as Louisa possessed to cope with the magic power of Napoleon.
It is told that at the battle of Jena, when the Prussian army was routed, the Queen, mounted upon a superb charger, remained on the field attended only by three or four of her escort. A band of French hussars seeing her, rushed forward at full gallop, and with drawn swords dispersed the little group and pursued her all the way to Weimar.
Had not the horse her Majesty rode possessed the fleetness of a stag, the fair Queen would certainly have been captured.
The incident, be it history or not, gave occasion for the following poem.
The Queen of Prussia’s Ride
Fair Queen, away! To thy charger speak,
A band of hussars thy capture seek;
Oh, haste! Escape! They are riding this way,
Speak, speak to thy charger without delay;
Behold! They come at a break-neck pace,
A smile triumphant illumes each face,
Queen of the Prussians, now for a race,
To Weimar for safety … fly!
She turned, and her steed with a furious dash,
Over the field like the lightning’s flash –
Away, like an arrow from steel cross-bow,
Over hill and dale in the sun’s fierce flow,
The Queen and her enemies thundering go,
On toward Weimar they sped.
The royal courser is swift and brave,
And his royal rider he tries to save,
“Vive l’Empereur!” rings sharp and clear;
She turns and is startled to see them so near,
Then softly speaks in her charger’s ear,
And away he bounds like a roe.
He speeds as though on the wings of the wind,
The Queen’s pursuers are left behind,
She fears, though each trooper grasps his reins,
Stands up in his stirrups, strikes spurs and strains;
For ride as they may, her steed still gains,
And Weimar is just before.
Safe! The clatter now fainter grows,
She sees in the distance her labouring foes,
The gates of the fortress stand open wide
To welcome the German nation’s bride
With gallop and dash, into Weimar she goes,
And the gates at once on her enemies close.
Give thanks, give thanks! She is safe with those
Who hail her with cheer on cheer!
Battle of Jenaa
THE ROGUE AND HIS MASTER
A certain man, named John, was desirous that his son should learn some trade, and he went into the church to ask the priest’s opinion what would be most desirable. Just then the clerk was standing near the altar, and he cried out, “The rogue, the rogue!”
At these words the man went away, and told his son he must learn to be a rogue, for so the priest had said. So they set out, and asked one man and another whether he was a rogue, till, at the end of the day, they entered a large forest, and there found a little hut with an old woman in it.
John asked the old woman, “Do you know any man who can teach roguery?
“Here,” said the old woman, “here you may learn, for my son is a master of the art.”
Then John asked the son whether he could teach it perfectly?
Said the rogue: “I will teach your son well; return in four years, and if you know your son then I will not ask any recompense; but if you do not, then you must give me two hundred dollars.”
John now went home, and left his son to learn roguery and witchcraft. When the time was up, the father set out to see his son, considering as he went along by what he should know him. On his away he met a little man, who stopped him, and asked, “Why are you grieving and looking so mournful?”
“Oh,” replied John, “four years ago I left my son to learn roguery, and the master said, if I returned in that time and knew my son, I should have nothing to pay; but if I did not know him, I must give him two hundred dollars. Since I have no means of recognizing him, I am troubled where to procure the money.”
Then the little man told him to take a basket of bread with him, and when he came to the rogue’s house to put the basket under a hollow tree which stood there. The little bird which should peep out would be his son.
John went and did as he was told, and out came a little bird to peck at the bread. “Holloa, my son! Are you here?”
The son was very glad to hear his father’s voice. “Father, let us go!”
But first the rogue-master called out, “The Evil One must have told you where to find your son!”
So the father and son returned home, and on their way they met a coach. The son said to his father. “I will change myself into a fine greyhound, and then you can earn some money by me.”
The lord who was riding in the coach called out, “Man, will you sell your dog?”
“Yes,” replied the father.
“How much do you want for him?”
“That is too much, my man,” said the lord, but on account of his very beautiful coat I will buy him of you.”
The bargain concluded, the dog was put inside the coach; but when they had traveled a mile or two, the greyhound jumped right out through the glass, and rejoined his father.
After this adventure they went home together, and the following day they went to the next village to market. On their way the son said, “Father, I will change myself into a horse, and then you can sell me. But first untie my bridle, and then I can change myself into the form of a man.”
The father drove his horse to market, and thither came the rogue-master and bought him for a hundred dollars.
But the father forgot to untie the bridle.
The rogue rode his horse home, and put him in the stable, and when the maid came with the corn, the horse said to her, “Undo my bridle, undo my bridle!”
“Ah, can you speak?” She was terrified, and untied the horse directly.
The horse thereupon became a sparrow, and flew away out at the door, pursued by the rogue, who changed himself also into a bird.
When they came up with each other, the rogue changed himself into water, and the other into a fish. But the rogue could not catch him so, and he changed himself into a cock.
But the other became a fox, and ate him..
Excerpt, Edgar Taylor: “Lay of the Minnesingers, or German Troubadours of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries.” London: 1825.
Walther von der Vogelweide, one of the most distinguished of the Minnesingers, was born in the latter half of the Twelfth Century of a noble family belonging to the Upper Thurgau. The name Vogelweide (Bird-meadow) appears to have been taken from that of their castle. The poet led a wandering life; sometimes at the court of Frederic, the Duke of Austria and Stiria; then kindly received by Philip Augustus, King of France.
But he remained long at the magnificent court of the Landgrave of Thuringia, the great patron of the poets of his age, who instituted the poetical contest called the War of Wartburg, in which Walther took part. A work is still preserved called “The Wartburg War,” consisting of the alternate songs of the bards who took part in this poetical joust.
Tradition places the date of this tuneful tourney in the year 1207, the most brilliant epoch of ancient German poetry, not only for the illustrious names which have been handed down to our day, but for the impulse given to the ancient national and heroic poetry by unknown minstrels. Hermann, Landgrave of Thuringia, had gathered round his court many of the most famous Minnesingers, who had celebrated in lays and ballads the warlike deeds of his martial house.
Heinrich von Ofterdingen appears as the champion of the Austrian prince. He throws down the gauntlet to all the poets, and offers to maintain the virtues of his hero against all the singer tribe, under penalty of being hanged in case of defeat.
Walther, as court poet of the Thuringian prince, accepts the challenge, and enters the lists against Heinrich von Ofterdingen. Walther regrets that he is obliged to declare against the Duke of Austria and his brave cavaliers; then he praises the King of France, Philip Augustus, in whose reign the poetry of the North of France rivaled the glory of the Provençal muse.
This the poet could testify from his own knowledge, for he had crossed the Rhine and visited the banks of the Seine. But in the course of the contest he partially recants, and sets the gracious Duke above the monarch, calling him the Sun; but the Landgrave he compares to the brightness that precedes the Sun.
Ofterdingen complains of Walther, accuses him of playing an unfair game, and resorts to Klinsor of Hungary to sustain the supremacy of Austria. The other champions call for Stempfel of Eisenach, who stands ready the halter; but Ofterdingen is protected by the Landgravine, who intercedes in his defense.
The place of the scene was the great Wartburg castle, a hall that still exists, and is shown as a monument of the joust…
Walther seems to have adopted all the habits and manners of the wandering minstrels of the times. He traveled from court to court, generally received with honor, tarrying with the German princes who protected the arts of poetry and music, and sometimes at foreign courts, and was welcomed everywhere.
When from the sod and the flowerets spring,
And smile to meet the sun’s bright ray,
When birds their sweetest carols sing,
Is all the morning pride of May.
What lovelier than the prospect there?
Can earth boast anything more fair?
To me it seems an almost heaven,
So beauteous to my eyes
That vision bright is given.
But when a lady chaste and fair,
Noble, and clad in rich attire,
Walks through the throng with gracious sir,
As sun that bids the stars retire –
Then, where are all thy boastings, May?
What hast though beautiful and gay,
Compared with that supreme delight?
We leave thy loveliest flowers,
And watch that lady bright.
Wouldst thou believe me – come and place
Before thee all this pride of May;
Then look but on my lady’s face,
And which is best and brightest say,
For me, how soon (if choice were mine)
This would I take, and that resign,
And say, “Though sweet thy beauties, May
I’d rather forfeit all than lose my lady gay!”
An illustrated brief version of E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “Meister Floh” — excerpted from “Tales of the Nations,” a picture book published in Hamburg in 1933 by the “Cigarettenbilderdienst Hamburg-Bahrenfeld” (“Cigarette Picture Service”).Narrator and Illustrator:Stefan Mart.
During such a fight, Alina one day saw among the gaping crowd a young man with long curly hair who was making his way up to the steps of the booth. The girl couldn’t believe her eyes, but there was no doubt: that was what Zeherit, her thistle prince, would look like in human form. And it really was him! He had taken on human shape because of his great longing to see the lovely girl and to be able to protect her in the dismal darkness of the human world.
“Zeherit!” Alinore cried out in joyful surprise on her high platform. But the youth put his finger on his lips, indicating that she should remain silent, and in feverish haste he gave her a folded piece of paper on which a few words had been scribbled.
The note was signed “Pepush”. Alina read it, her heart beating fast. – “Oh, Mr Pepush…!” At that moment Leuwenhoek’s big bell rang out summoning her and Master Flea to the performance in the tent. Still very confused, little Alina looked around in the dim light of the theatre for the Master. But he was sitting far away from her, and was very aggrieved because he had seen her gazing at Mr Pepush and knew she had fallen in love with him. Master Flea had his pride.
It was he who had rescued her – had she forgotten that his bites were still essential to preserve her life? Deeply mortified, he decided he would leave the girl. A tumult set in outside the tent. The rival entrepreneur had once again turned his megaphone in the direction of Leuwenhoek’s circus. Swammer was trying to prevent the crowd from entering the tent. Master Flea seized the opportunity. He took a determined jump to freedom through a hole in the canvas of the tent.
To his surprise, he found himself among the colourful odds and ends on sale in the neighbouring booth, a toy bazaar. Among many others looking at the goods stood a very respectable gentleman, Mr Peregrinus
Tys, who was doing his Christmas shopping. Mr Peregrinus was a bachelor: not, however, on principle but due to excessive shyness, which he was unable to overcome in the presence of the fair sex. He had selected the very finest things as he wanted to give many presents to the children of his neighbour, a bookbinder called Shepherd.
The real reason for his generosity he did not admit even to himself: he had long felt secretly attracted to the eldest daughter of this large family but he did not dare to raise his eyes and look freely and openly at the gentle, beautiful girl.
Peregrinus Tys, both arms laden with presents, was just about to reach for the last item he had selected – an oval box with a picture of a wild boar hunt on it – when a little incident took place. Master Flea came leaping out. He had noticed Alina following him in her fear. He quickly sprang into one of the boxes lying on the counter in order to hide. But Alina was already there, seized the box in which she thought Master Flea had taken refuge, and ran off with it.
Peregrinus hesitated for a moment, his hand outstretched, but then he took hold of what he thought was the box with hunting scene. – When he got home, his housekeeper took charge of his purchases. Pauline was a stout old dame with a beetroot-red nose. She was the only female whose presence the shy and introverted eccentric would tolerate in his vicinity. Heaven alone knows how this ugly creature with her watery eyes and unkempt hair came to be known as the Empress of Golgonda. –
It must be said right away that the heart of the bachelor, Mr Peregrinus Tys, had never beaten so fast on any previous Christmas Eve as it was now beating in anxious anticipation. He already heard in his imagination the little silver bell tinkling gently at Shepherd’s and the loud jubilation of all the children. But before he left, he checked the presents once more. He was annoyed to find that box with the hunting scene had somehow gone astray. Then he noticed another unopened box.
When he opened it he saw to his horror that it was empty, except that something seemed to leap out of it towards him which bore some resemblance to a large coloured flea. But his eyesight was not good enough for him to be sure.
He now felt a strange tickling sensation under his cravat. But as it was Christmas, Mr Peregrinus did not wish to delay any further and prepared to visit his neighbour to bring him all the wonderful presents. But before him now stood a very pretty, slender creature dressed up as though she were coming from a ball, wearing a silk gown, and a tiara in her dark hair. The frightened bachelor wanted to make off at once, but the apparition took him by both hands and whispered in her delightful voice: “Oh, Peregrin, dear Peregrin, I am bringing you the wooden box with the missing hunting scene.”
It was Alinore, who had noticed her mistake. This incident and the sight of the beautiful girl was too much for the fat housekeeper, Pauline, who was still present in the room. Being unwilling to tolerate a second woman in her vicinity, she refused to serve, gave notice and hurried out of the house. When Alina was alone with Mr Peregrinus Tys, she fell on her knees before him: “My dear friend, return the prisoner to me! My very life depends upon it!” Peregrinus did not know that the prisoner she was talking about was that something that had escaped from the empty box. He thought a mill wheel was revolving in his head.
He heard sobbing and weeping. When he had recovered from his dizziness, he saw the beautiful girl lying on the ground before him, motionless and pale as death. “Be on your guard, good sir, be on your guard!” Peregrinus heard something whisper this just under his nose. A tiny monster was sitting on his silken cravat. A pair of round, bright eyes shone out of its bird-like head, and a long pointed object protruded from its sparrow’s beak.
Two horns grew out of its forehead, and on its feet the curious creature was wearing golden boots with diamond spurs. – “Though you do not know me, good Mr Peregrinus; I beg you, sir, allow me to introduce myself – I am Master Flea. Permit me to insert a minute microscope made by a skilled optician of my people into the pupil of your left eye. You will see at once what power this microscope will give you over others, since you will be able to read their innermost thoughts.
But do not always wear it, as it would weigh you down unbearably to always know what your fellow men are thinking!” So enthralled was Peregrinus Tys by this magical insect that he had almost forgotten the beautiful girl lying lifeless at his feet. – “Woe is me, I am dying!” Alinore murmured through her snow-white lips. – “Give – the – prisoner! – I am dying!” All at once a penetrating but harmonious sound was to be heard, as though little golden bells had been struck. Alinore leaped up and hopped around the room laughing, her lips and cheeks now rosy and warm. Good Master Flea had taken pity on her and bitten
her. Mr Peregrinus Tys stood there motionless with astonishment; but that was not the end of the wondrous events of the day. The door was thrown open – Leuwenhoek and Swammer burst in. The two scoundrels had resolved their differences and were determined to join forces to bring back the two escaped prisoners. Due to the power of the microscope, Peregrinus Tys became instantly aware of the sinister thoughts of these villains. A third person appeared – Mr Pepush turned up to protect Alinore.
Mr Peregrinus, the bachelor, began to understand the background of these mysterious events thanks to that marvelous instrument which Master Flea had inserted into his eye. To everybody’s amazement, a milky ray of light came in through the window, and wound itself in a spiral around the chandelier. The Sublime Spirit from the fairy-land of Famagusta had arrived at the very last minute to recover his assets from the two magicians who had stolen them.
As soon as he had taken on visible form, the two magicians, Swammer and Leuwenhoek, fell upon the spirit with howls of rage; they grabbed two chairs and lambasted it until the milky substance of his body was flowing out of it in all directions. Only then was the magic spell broken which had bound lovely Alinore and Mr Pepush, and the two magicians no longer had any power over them either.
Alinore fell into Mr Pepush’s arms; they were both now so happy that they had enough vitality to live as humans for a whole lifetime. Swammer and Leuwenhoek made off like two beaten curs. – The air had been cleared. Master Flea bestirred himself. He whispered to the bachelor, Peregrinus Tys, who was now alone: “Now is the time for you to take a big decision, Mr Peregrinus.
Take your presents and let us go over to your neighbour. I can tell you a secret: that lovely girl Rosy Shepherd has been waiting for you with impatience. Don’t be so shy, Mr Peregrinus, give the child your hand and tell her that you are ready!”
A year of marital bliss had passed. Nobody would have recognised the former bachelor Peregrinus: he had become a useful husband. He sat at the cradle and was rocking his first-born son.
“I would never have known you, my son, had it not been for Master Flea.” The good papa was telling his sleeping baby son the whole epic of the flea from start to finish. – Peregrinus suddenly raised his head. He could hear shouting in the kitchen. Master Flea had bitten fat Pauline’s nose, because the old housekeeper had been careless enough to let the baby’s milk boil over. Rosy, the beautiful young wife, now joined the happy father at the cradle and both laughed merrily at the joke.
But they then heard the silvery sound of Master Flea’s voice: “Mr and Mrs Peregrinus Tys, your devoted servant! I beg to inform you that my mission here has been accomplished. I would ask you to remember that I am, after all, a flea. Please excuse me! I am expected elsewhere. Should His Grace, young Master Tys, ever fall into bad health, I shall appear at once and help out with a couple of bites!”
Having made this promise, the kindly insect executed some extraordinary leaps: “Goodbye! I am jumping back to my madcaps, to the flea people whose master I am!”
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