Gustav Meyrink: “The Man on the Bottle”

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

Characters:
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.

Margery Williams: “What is Real?”

Excerpt, “The Velveteen Rabbit” by Margery Williams. 1922.

what is real

Ludwig Tieck: “Confidence”

Excerpt, “English Echoes of German Song.” Tr. by R. E. Wallis, J. D. Morell and F. D’Anvers. Ed. by N. D’Anvers. London: 1877.

confidence2

Sir Walter Scott: “The Bard’s Incantation”

Sir Walter Scott saw nothing to ridicule or caricature in the man who ruled France. He saw the danger which threatened his own country, and, in a legitimate way, he endeavoured to arouse his fellow-countrymen to a proper sense of that danger. There were other English writers, like Wordsworth and Campbell, who were willing to treat Napoleon as a foeman worthy of British steel; but the great majority thought of him only as a Corsican pirate, coming over to burn, ravish, and destroy.

france-louvre-napoleons-coronationCoronation of Napoleon (1804) Palace of Versailles

The Bard’s Incantation

Written under the threat of Napoleon’s invasion in the Autumn of 1804.

The Forest of Glenmore is drear,
It is all of black pine, and the dark oak-tree;
And the midnight wind to the mountain deer,
Is whistling the forest lullaby:
The moon looks through the drifting storm,
But the troubled lake reflects not her form,
For the waves roll whitening to the land,
And dash against the shelvy strand.

There is a voice among the trees,
That mingles with the groaning oak-
That mingles with the stormy breeze,
And the lake-waves dashing against the rock;-
There is a voice within the wood,
The voice of the Bard in fitful mood;
His song was louder than the blast,
As the Bard of Glenmore through the forest past.

‘Wake ye from your sleep of death,
Minstrels and bards of other days!
For the midnight wind is on the heath,
And the midnight meteors dimly blaze:
The Spectre with the Bloody Hand,
Is wandering through the wild woodland;
The owl and the raven are mute for dread,
And the time is meet to awake the dead!

‘Souls of the mighty, wake, and say
To what high strain your harps were strung
When Lochlin plough’d her billowy way,
And on your shores her Norsemen flung?
Her Norsemen train’d to spoil and blood,
Skill’d to prepare the Raven’s food,
All, by your harpings, doom’d to die
On bloody Largs and Loncarty.

‘Mute are ye all? No murmurs strange
Upon the midnight breeze sail by;
Nor through the pines, with whistling change
Mimic the harp’s wild harmony!
Mute are ye now? – Ye ne’er were mute,
When Murder with his bloody foot,
And Rapine with his iron hand,
Were hovering near yon mountain strand.

‘O, yet awake, the strain to tell,
By every deed in song enroll’d,
By every chief who fought or fell
For Albion’s weal in battle bold:-
From Coilgach, first, who rolled his car
Through the deep ranks of Roman war,
To him, of veteran memory dear,
Who, victor, died on Aboukir.

‘By all their swords, by all their scars,
By all their names, a mighty spell!
By all their wounds, by all their wars,
Arise the mighty strain to tell!
For, fiercer than fierce Hengist’s strain,
More impious than the heathen Dane,
More grasping than all grasping Rome,
Gaul’s ravening legions hither come!’

The wind is hush’d, and still the lake-
Strange murmurs fill my tinkling ears,
Bristles my hair, my sinews quake
At the dread voice of other years-
‘When targets clash’d and bugles rung,
And blades round warriors’ heads were flung,
The foremost of the band were we,
And hymned the joys of liberty!’

Eduard Mörike: “Seclusion”

Excerpt, “English Echoes of German Song.” Tr. by R. E. Wallis, J. D. Morell and F. D’Anvers. Ed. by N. D’Anvers. London: 1877.seclusion

A.L.A. Smith: “The Queen of Prussia’s Ride”

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;

They’re nigh.

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 –

Fled.

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,

But, no!

“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,

No more

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

So dear.

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!

.

Jena

Battle of Jenaa

The Brothers Grimm: “The Rogue and his Master”

THE ROGUE AND HIS MASTER

01_htm374A 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?”

“Thirty dollars.”

“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..

Walther von der Vogelweide – Minnesinger

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?

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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!”

,

,

Wilhelm Wackernagel: “The Weeping Willow”

Excerpt, “Translations from the German Poets of the 18th and 19th Centuries.”  By Alice Lucas. London:  1876.

the weeping willow

The Third Thought the Best

Excerpt, “The Spirit of German Poetry:  A Series of translations from the German Poets, with Critical and Biographical Notices.”   Translated by Joseph Gostick.  1845.

Emanuel von Geibel: “Let No One”

Excerpt, “Lyrics and Ballads of Heine and Other German Poets.”  Translated by Frances Hellman.  1892.

Heine: “Heart, Despair Not”

Excerpt, “Lyrics and Ballads of Heine and Other German Poets.”  Translated by Frances Hellman.  1892.

Schiller: “The Commencement of the Nineteenth Century”

Excerpt, “German Poetry with The English Versions of The Best Translations.” Edited by H.E. Goldschmidt.  1869. Translated by C. Hermann Merivale.