Friedrich's Ballad by Juliana Horatia Ewing
A Tale of the Feast of St. Nicholas.
"Ne pinger ne scolpir fia piu che queti, L'anima volta a quell' Amor divino Ch'asserse a prender noi in Croce le braccia."
"Painting and Sculpture's aid in vain I crave, My one sole refuge is that Love divine Which from the Cross stretched forth its arms to save."
Written by MICHAEL ANGELO at the age of 83.
"So be it," said one of the council, as he rose and addressed the others. "It is now finally decided. The Story Woman is to be walled up."
The council was not an ecclesiastical one, and the woman condemned to the barbarous and bygone punishment of being "walled up" was not an offending nun. In fact the Story Woman (or Maerchen-Frau as she is called in Germany) may be taken to represent the imaginary personage who is known in England by the name of Mother Bunch, or Mother Goose; and it was in this instance the name given by a certain family of children to an old book of ballads and poems, which they were accustomed to read in turn with special solemnities, on one particular night in the year; the reader for the time being having a peculiar costume, and the title of "Maerchen-Frau," or Mother Bunch, a name which had in time been familiarly adopted for the ballad-book itself.
This book was not bound in a fashionable colour, nor illustrated by a fashionable artist; the Chiswick Press had not set up a type for it, and Hayday's morocco was a thing unknown. It had not, in short, one of those attractions with which in these days books are surrounded, whose insides do not always fulfil the promise of the binding. If, however, it was on these points inferior to modern volumes, it had on others the advantage. It did not share a precarious favour with a dozen rivals in mauve, to be supplanted ere the year was out by twelve new ones in magenta. It was never thrown aside with the contemptuous remark,--"I've read that!" On the contrary, it always had been to its possessors, what (from the best Book downwards) a good book always should be, a friend, and not an acquaintance--not to be too readily criticized, but to be loved and trusted. The pages were yellow and worn, not with profane ill-usage, but with honourable wear and tear; and the mottled binding presented much such an appearance as might be expected from a book that had been pressed under the pillow of one reader, and in the pocket of another; that had been wept over and laughed over, and warmed by winter fires, and damped in the summer grass, and had in general seen as much of life as the venerable book in question. It was not the property of one member of the family, but the joint possession of all. It was not mine, but ours, as the inscription, "For the Children," written on the blank leaf testified; which inscription was hereafter to be a pathetic memorial to aged eyes of days when "the children" were not yet separated, and took their pleasures, like their meals, together.
And after all this, with the full consent of a council of the owners, the Maerchen-Frau was to be "walled up."
But before I attempt to explain, or in any way excuse this seemingly ungracious act, it may be well to give some account of the doers thereof. Well, then:--
Providence had blessed a certain respectable tradesman, in a certain town in Germany, with a large and promising family of children. He had married very early the beloved of his boyhood, and had been left a widower with one motherless baby almost before he was a man. A neighbour, with womanly compassion, took pity upon this desolate father, and more desolate child; and it was not until she had nursed the babe in her own house through a dangerous sickness, and had for long been chief adviser to the parent, that he awoke to the fact that she had become necessary to him, and they were married.
Of this union came a family of eight, the two eldest of whom were laid in turn in the quiet grave. The others survived, and, with the first wife's daughter, made a goodly family party, which sometimes sorely taxed the resources of the tradesman to provide for, though his business was good and his wife careful. They scrambled up, however, as children are wont to do in such circumstances; and at the time our story opens the youngest had turned his back upon babyhood, and Marie, the eldest, had reached that pinnacle of childish ambition--she was "grown up."
A very good Marie she was, and always had been; from the days when she ran to school with a little knapsack on her back, and her fair hair hanging down in two long plaits, to the present time, when she tenderly fastened that same knapsack on to the shoulders of a younger sister; and when the plaits had for long been reclaimed from their vagrant freedom, and coiled close to her head.
"Our Marie is not clever," said one of the children, who flattered himself that he was a bit of a genius; "our Marie is not clever, but also she is never wrong."
It is with this same genius that our story has chiefly to do.
Friedrich was a child of unusual talent; a fact which, happily for himself, was not discovered till he was more than twelve years old. He learnt to read very quickly; and when he was once able, read every book on which he could lay his hands, and in his father's house the number was not great. When Marie was a child, the school was kept by a certain old man, very gentle and learned in his quiet way. He had been fond of his fair-haired pupil, and when she was no longer a scholar, had passed many an odd hour in imparting to her a slight knowledge of Latin, and of the great Linnaeus' system of botany. He was now dead, and his place filled by a less sympathizing pedagogue; and Friedrich listened with envious ears to his more fortunate sister's stories of her friend and master.
"So he taught you Latin--that great language! And botany--which is a science!" the child would exclaim with envious admiration, when he had heard for the thousandth time every particular of the old schoolmaster's kindness.
And Marie would answer calmly, as she "refooted" one of the father's stockings, "We did a good deal of the grammar, which I fear I have forgotten, and I learnt by heart a few of the Psalms in Latin, which I remember well. Also we commenced the system of Mr. Linnaeus, but I was very stupid, and ever preferred those plates which pictured the flower itself to those which gave the torn pieces, and which he thought most valuable. But, above all, he taught me to be good; and though I have forgotten many of his lessons, there are words and advice of his which I heeded little then, but which come back and teach me now. Father once heard the Burgomaster say he was a genius, but I know that he was good, and that is best of all;" with which, having turned the heel of her stocking, Marie would put it out of reach of the kitten, and lay the table for dinner.
And Friedrich--poor Friedrich!--groaning inwardly at his sister's indifference to her great opportunities for learning, would speculate to himself on the probable fate of each volume in the old schoolmaster's library, which had been sold when he, Friedrich, was but three years old. Thus, in these circumstances, the boy expressed his feelings with moderation when he said, "Our Marie is not clever, but also she is never wrong."
If the schoolmaster was dead, however, Friedrich was not, nevertheless, friendless. There was a certain bookseller in his native town, for whom in his spare time he ran messages, and who in return was glad to let him spend his playhours and half-holidays among the books in his shop. There, perched at the top of the shelves on a ladder, or crouched upon his toes at the bottom, he devoured some volumes and dipped into others; but what he liked best was poetry, and this not uncommon taste with many young readers was with this one a mania. Wherever the sight of verses met his eye, there he fastened and read greedily.
One day, a short time before my story opens, he found, in his wanderings from shelf to shelf, some nicely-bound volumes, one of which he opened, and straightway verses of the most attractive-looking metre met his eye, not, however, in German, but in a fair round Roman text, and, alas! in a language which he did not understand. There were customers in the shop, so he stood still in the corner with his nose almost resting on the bookshelf, staring fiercely at the page, as if he would force the meaning out of those fair clear-looking verses. When the last beard had vanished through the doorway, Friedrich came up to the counter, book in hand.
"Well, now?" said the comfortable bookseller, with a round German smile.
"This book," said the boy; "in what language is it?"
The man stuck his spectacles on his nose, and smiled again.
"It is Italian, and these are the sonnets of Petrarch, my child. The edition is a fine one, so be careful." Friedrich went back to his place, sighing heavily. After a while he came out again.
"Well now, what is it?" said the bookseller, cheerfully.
"Have you an Italian grammar?"
"Only this," said the other, as he picked a book from the shelf and laid it on the counter with a twinkle in his eye. The boy opened it and looked up disappointed.
"It is all Italian," said he.
"No, no," was the answer; "it is in French and Italian, and was printed at Paris. But what wouldst thou with a grammar, my child?"
The boy blushed as if he had been caught stealing, and said hastily--
"I must read those poems, and I cannot if I do not learn the language."
"And thou wouldst read Petrarch with a grammar," shouted the bookseller; "ho! ho! ho!"
"And a dictionary," said Friedrich; "why not?"
"Why not?" repeated the other, with renewed laughter. "Why not? Because to learn a language, my Friedrich, one must have a master, and exercises, and a phrase-book, and progressive reading-lessons with vocabulary; and, in short, one must learn a language in the way everybody else learns it; that is why not, my Friedrich."
"Everybody is nobody," said Friedrich, hotly; "at least nobody worth caring for. If I had a grammar and a dictionary, I would read those beautiful poems."
"Hear him!" said the cheerful little bookseller. "He will read Petrarch. He! If my volumes stop in the shelves till thou canst read them, my child--ho! ho! ho!" and he rubbed his brushy little beard with glee.
Friedrich's temper was not by nature of the calmest, and this conversation rubbed its tenderest points. He answered almost fiercely--
"Take care of your volumes. If I live, and they do stop in the shelves, I will buy them of you some day. Remember!" and he turned sharply round to hide the tears which had begun to fall.
For a moment the good shopkeeper's little mouth became as round as his round little eyes and his round little face; then he laid his hands on the counter, and jumping neatly over flung his dead weight on to Friedrich, and embraced him heartily.
"My poor child! (a kiss)--would that it had pleased Heaven to make thee the son of a nobleman--(another kiss). But hear me. A man in Berlin is now compiling an Italian grammar. It is to be out in a month or two. I shall have a copy, and thou shalt see it; and if ever thou canst read Petrarch I will give thee my volumes--(a volley of kisses). And now, as thou hast stayed so long, come into the little room and dine with me." With which invitation the kind-hearted German released his young friend and led him into the back room, where they buried the memory of Petrarch in a mess of vegetables and melted butter.
It may be added here, that the Petrarchs remained on the shelf, and that years afterwards the round-faced little bookseller redeemed his promise with pride.
Of these visits the father was to all intents and purposes ignorant. He knew that Friedrich went to see the bookseller, and that the bookseller was good-natured to him; but he never dreamt that his son read the books with which his neighbour's shop was lined, and he knew nothing of the wild visions which that same shop bred and nourished in the mind of his boy, and which made the life outside its doorstep seem a dream. The father and son saw that life from different points of view. The boy felt that he was more talented than other boys, and designed himself for a poet; the tradesman saw that the boy was more talented than other boys, and designed him for the business; and the opposite nature of these determinations was the one great misery of Friedrich's life.
If, however, this source of the child's sorrows was a secret one, and not spoken of to his brothers and sisters, or even to his friend the bookseller, equally secret also were the sources of his happiness. No eye but his own ever beheld those scraps of paper which he begged from the bookseller, and covered with childish efforts at verse-making. No one shared the happiness of those hours, of which perhaps a quarter was spent in working at the poem, and three-fourths were given to the day-dreams of the poet; or knew that the wild fancies of his brain made Friedrich's nights more happy than his days. By day he was a child (his family, with some reason, said a tiresome one), by night he was a man, and a great man. He visited the courts of Europe, and received compliments from Royalty; his plays were acted in the theatres; his poems stood on the shelves of the booksellers; he made his family rich (the boy was too young to wish for money for himself); he made everybody happy, and himself famous.
Fame! that was the word that rang in his ears and danced before his eyes as the hours of the night wore on, and he lived through a glorious lifetime. And so, when the mother, candle in hand, came round like a guardian angel among the sleeping children, to see that "all was right," he--poor child!--must feign to be sleeping on his face, to hide the traces of the tears which he had wept as he composed the epitaph which was to grace the monument of the famous Friedrich ----, poet, philosopher, etc. Whoever doubts the possibility of such exaggerated folly, has never known an imaginative childhood, or wept over those unreal griefs, which are not the less bitter at the time from being remembered afterwards with a mixture of shame and amusement. Happy or unhappy, however, in his dreams the boy was great, and this was enough; for Friedrich was vain, as everyone is tempted to be who feels himself in any way singular and unlike those about him. He revelled in the honours which he showered upon himself, and so--the night was happy; and so--the day was unwelcome when he was smartly bid to get up and put on his stockings, and found Fame gone and himself a child again, without honour, in his own country, and in his father's house.
These sad dreams (sad in their uselessness) were destined, however, to do him some good at last; and, oddly enough, the childish council that condemned the ballad-book decided his fate also. This was how it happened.
The children were accustomed, as we have said, to celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas by readings from their beloved book. St. Nicholas's Day (the 6th of December) has for years been a favourite festival with the children in many parts of the Continent. In France, the children are diligently taught that St. Nicholas comes in the night down the chimney, and fills the little shoes (which are ranged there for the purpose) with sweetmeats or rods, according to his opinion of their owner's conduct during the past year. The Saint is supposed to travel through the air, and to be followed by an ass laden with two panniers, one of which contains the good things, and the other the birch, and he leaves his ass at the top of the chimney and comes down alone. The same belief is entertained in Holland; and in some parts of Germany he is even believed to carry off bad boys and girls in his sack, answering in this respect to our English Bogy.
The day, as may be supposed, is looked forward to with no small amount of anxiety; very clean and tidy are the little shoes placed by the young expectants; and their parents--who have threatened and promised in St. Nicholas's name for a year past--take care that, with one sort of present or the other, the shoes are well filled. The great question--rods or sweetmeats--is, however, finally settled for each individual before breakfast-time on the great day; and before dinner, despite maternal warnings, most of the said sweetmeats have been consumed. And so it came to pass that Friedrich and his brothers and sisters had hit upon a plan for ending the day, with the same spirit and enjoyment with which it opened.
The mother, by a little kind manoeuvring, generally induced the father to sup and take his evening pipe with a neighbour, for the tradesman was one of those whose presence is rather a "wet blanket" upon all innocent folly and fun. Then she good-naturedly took herself off to household matters, and the children were left in undisturbed possession of the stove, round which they gathered with the book, and the game commenced. Each in turn read whichever poem he preferred; and the reader for the time being, was wrapt in a huge hood and cloak, kept for the purpose, and was called the "Maerchen-Frau," or Story Woman. Sometimes the song had a chorus, which all the children sang to whichever suited best of the thousand airs that are always floating in German brains. Sometimes, if the ballad was a favourite one, the others would take part in any verses that contained a dialogue. This was generally the case with some verses in the pet ballad of Bluebeard, at that exciting point where Sister Anne is looking from the castle window. First the Maerchen-Frau read in a sonorous voice--
"Schwester Aennchen, siehst du nichts?" (Sister Anne, do you see nothing?)
Then the others replied for Anne--
"Staeubchen fliegen, Graeschen wehen." (A little dust flies, a little grass waves.)
Again the Maerchen-Frau--
"Aennchen, laesst sich sonst nichts sehen?" (Little Anne, is there nothing else to be seen?)
And the unsatisfactory reply--
"Schwesterchen, sonst seh' ich nichts!" (Little sister, I see nothing else!)
After this the Maerchen-Frau finished the ballad alone, and the conclusion was received with shouts of applause and laughter, that would have considerably astonished the good father, could he have heard them, and that did sometimes oblige the mother to call order from the loft above, just for propriety's sake; for, in truth, the good woman loved to hear them, and often hummed in with a chorus to herself as she turned over the clothes among which she was busy.
At last, however, after having been for years the crowning enjoyment of St. Nicholas's Day, the credit of the Maerchen-Frau was doomed to fade. The last reading had been rather a failure, not because the old ballad-book was supplanted by a new one, or because the children had outgrown its histories; perhaps--though they did not acknowledge it--Friedrich was in some degree to blame.
His increasing knowledge, the long readings in the bookseller's shop, which his brothers and sisters neither shared nor knew of, had given him a feeling of contempt for the one book on which they feasted from year to year; and his part, as Maerchen-Frau, had been on this occasion more remarkable for yawns than for anything else. The effect of this failure was not confined to that day. Whenever the book was brought out, there was the same feeling that the magic of it was gone, and very greatly were the poor children disquieted by the fact.
At last, one summer's day, in the year of which we are writing, one of the boys was struck, as he fancied, by a brilliant idea; and as brilliant ideas on any subject are precious, he lost no time in summoning a council of his brothers and sisters in the garden. It was a half-holiday, and they soon came trooping round the great linden tree--where the bees were already in full possession--and the youngest girl, who was but six years old, bore the book hugged fast in her two arms.
The boy opened the case--as lawyers say--by describing the loss of interest in their book since the last Feast of St. Nicholas. "This did not," he said, "arise from any want of love to the stories themselves, but from the fact of their knowing them so well. Whatever ballad the Maerchen-Frau chose, every line of it was so familiar to each one of them that it seemed folly to repeat it. In these circumstances it was evident that the greatest compliment they could pay the stories was to forget them, and he had a plan for attaining this desirable end. Let them deny themselves now for their future pleasure; let them put away the Maerchen-Frau till next St. Nicholas's Day, and, in the meantime, let each of them do his best to forget as much of it as he possibly could." The speaker ceased, and in the silence the bees above droned as if in answer, and then the children below shouted applause until the garden rang.
But now came the question, where was the Maerchen-Frau to be put? and for this the suggestive brother had also an idea. He had found certain bricks in the thick old garden wall which were loose, and when taken out there was a hole which was quite the thing for their purpose. Let them wrap the book carefully up, put it in the hole, and replace the bricks. This was his proposal, and he sat down. The bees droned above, the children shouted below, and the proposal was carried amid general satisfaction. "So be it," said the suggestor, in conclusion. "It is now finally decided. The Maerchen-Frau is to be walled up."
And walled up she was forthwith, but not without a parting embrace from each of her judges, and possibly some slight latent faith in the suggestion of one of the party that perhaps St. Nicholas would put a new inside and new stories into her before next December.
"I don't think I should like a new inside, though," doubted the child before mentioned, with a shake of her tiny plaits, "or new stories either."
As this quaint little Fraeulein went into the house she met Friedrich, who came from the bookseller's.
"Friedrich," said she, in a solemn voice, "we have walled up the 'Maerchen-Frau.'"
"Have you, Schwesterchen?"
This was Friedrich's answer; but it may safely be stated that, if any one had asked him what it was his sister had told him, he would have been utterly unable to reply.
He had been to the bookseller's!
The summer passed, and the children kept faithfully to their resolve. The little sister sometimes sat by the wall and comforted the Maerchen-Frau inside, with promises of coming out soon; but not a brick was touched. There was something pathetic in the children's voluntary renouncement of their one toy. The father was too absent and the mother too busy, to notice its loss; Marie missed it and made inquiries of the children, but she was implored to be silent, and discreetly held her tongue. Winter drew on, and for some time a change was visible in the manners of one of the children; he seemed restless and uncomfortable, as if something preyed upon his mind. At last he was induced to unburden himself to the others, when it was discovered that he couldn't forget the poems in "Maerchen-Frau." This was the grievance.
"It seems as if I did it on purpose," groaned he in self-indignation. "The nearer the time comes, and the more I try to forget, the clearer I remember them everyone. You know my pet is Bluebeard; well, I thought I would forget that altogether, every word: and then when my turn came to be Maerchen-Frau I would take it for my piece. And now, of all the rest, this is just the one that runs in my head. It is quite as if I did it on purpose."
Involuntarily the company--who appeared to have forgotten it as little as he--struck up in a merry tune--
"Blaubart war ein reicher Mann," etc.[A]
"Oh, don't!" groaned the victim. "That's just how it goes in my head all along, especially the verse--
"Stark war seines Koerpers Ban, Feurig waren seine Blicke, Aber ach!--ein Missgeschicke!-- Aber ach! sein Bart war blau."[B]
"On Sunday, when the preacher gave out the text, I was looking at him, and it came so strongly into my head that I nearly said it out loud--'But ah! his beard was blue!' To-day the schoolmaster asked me a question about Solomon. I could remember nothing but 'Ah! his beard was blue!' I have tried this week with all my might; and the harder I try, the better I remember every word. It is dreadful."
[Footnote A: "Bluebeard was a rich man."]
"Strong was the build of his body, Fiery were his glances, But ah!--disaster!-- But ah! his beard was blue."]
It was dreadful; but he was somewhat comforted to learn that the memories of his brothers and sisters were as perverse as his own. Those ballads were not to be easily forgotten. They refused to give up their hold on the minds they had nourished and amused so long.
One and all the children were really distressed, with the exception of Friedrich, who had, as usual, given about half his attention to the subject in hand; and who now sat absently humming to himself the account of Bluebeard's position and character, as set forth in Gotter's ballad.
The others came to the conclusion that there was but one hope left--that St. Nicholas might have put some new ballads into the old book--and one and all they made for the hiding-place, followed at a feebler pace by the little Fraeulein, who ran with her lips tightly shut, her hands clenched, and her eyes wide open with a mixture of fear and expectation. The bricks were removed, the book unwrapped, but alas! everything was the same, even to the rough woodcut of Bluebeard himself, in the act of sharpening his scimitar. There was no change, except that the volume was rather the worse for damp. It was thrown down with a murmur of disappointment, but seized immediately by the little Fraeulein, who flung herself upon it in a passion of tears and embraces. Hers was the only faithful affection; the charm of the Maerchen-Frau was gone.
They were all out of humour with this, and naturally looked about for some one to find fault with. Friedrich was at hand, and so they fell upon him and reproached him for his want of sympathy with their vexation. The boy awoke from a brown study, and began to defend himself:--"He was very sorry," he said; "but he couldn't see the use of making such a great fuss about a few old ballads, that after all were nothing so very wonderful."
This was flat heresy, and he was indignantly desired to say where any were to be got like them--where even one might be found, when St. Nicholas could not provide them? Friedrich was even less respectful to the idea of St. Nicholas, and said something which, translated into English, would look very like the word humbug. This was no answer to the question "where were they to get a ballad?" and a fresh storm came upon his head; whereupon being much goaded, and in a mixture of vanity and vexation of spirit, he let out the fact that "he thought he could write one almost as good himself."
This turned the current of affairs. The children had an instinctive belief in Friedrich's talents, to which their elders had not attained. The faith of childhood is great; and they saw no reason why he should not be able to do as he said, and so forthwith began to pet and coax him as unmercifully as they had scolded five minutes before.
"Beloved Friedrich; dear little brother! Do write one for us. We know thou canst!"
"I cannot," said Friedrich. "It is all nonsense. I was only joking."
"It is not nonsense; we know thou canst! Dear Fritz--just to please us!"
"Do!" said another. "It was only yesterday the mother was saying, 'Friedrich can do nothing useful!' But when thou hast written a poem thou wilt have done more than any one in the house--ay, or in the town. And when thou hast written one poem thou wilt write more, and be like Hans Sachs, and the Twelve Wise Masters thou hast told us of so often."
Friedrich had read many of the verses of the Cobbler Poet, but the name of Hans Sachs awakened no thought in his mind. He had heard nothing of that speech but one sentence, and it decided him.
Friedrich can do nothing useful. "I will see what I can do," he said, and walked hastily away. Down the garden, out into the road, away to the mill, where he could stand by the roaring water and talk aloud without being heard.
"Friedrich can do nothing useful. Yes, I will write a ballad."
He went home, got together some scraps of paper, and commenced.
In half-a-dozen days he began as many ballads, and tore them up one and all. He beat his brains for plots, and was satisfied with none. He had a fair maiden, a cruel father, a wicked sister, a handsome knight, and a castle on the Rhine; and so plunged into a love story with a moonlight meeting, an escape on horseback, pursuit, capture, despair, suicide, and a ghostly apparition that floated over the river, and wrung her hands under the castle window. It seems impossible for an author to do more for his heroine than take her out of the world, and bring her back again; but our poet was not content. He had not come himself to the sentiment of life, and felt a rough boyish disgust at the maundering griefs of his hero and heroine, who, moreover, were unpleasantly like every other hero and heroine that he had ever read of under similar circumstances; and if there was one thing more than another that Friedrich was determined to be, it was to be original.
He had no half hopes. With the dauntlessness of young ambition, he determined to do his very best, and that that best should be better than anything that ever had been done by any one.
Having failed with the sentimental, he tried to write something funny. Surely such child's tales as Bluebeard, Cinderella, etc., were easy enough to write. He would make a Kindeslied--a child's song. But he was mistaken; to write a new nursery ballad was the hardest task of all. Time after time he struggled; and, at last, one day when he had written and destroyed a longer effort than usual, he went to bed in hopeless despair.
His disappointment mingled with his dreams. He dreamt that he was in the bookseller's shop hunting among the shelves for some scraps of paper on which he had written. He could not find them, he thought, but came across the Petrarch volumes in their beautiful binding. He opened one and saw--not a word of that fair-looking Italian, but--his own ballad that he could not write, written and printed in good German character with his name on the title-page. He took it in his hands and went out of the shop, and as he did so it seemed to him, in his dream, that he had become a man. He dreamt that as he came down the steps, the people in the street gathered round him and cheered and shouted. The women held up their children to look at him; he was a Great Man! He thought that he turned back into the shop and went up to the counter. There sat the smiling little bookseller as natural as life, who smiled and bowed to him, as Friedrich had a hundred times seen him bow and smile to the bearded men who came in to purchase.
"How many have you sold of this?" said Friedrich, in his dream.
"Forty thousand!" with another smile and bow.
Forty thousand! It seemed to him that all the world must have read it. This was Fame.
He went out of the shop, through the shouting market-place, and home, where his father led him in and offered pipes and a mug of ale, as if he were the Burgomaster. He sat down, and when his mother came in, rose to embrace her, and, doing so, knocked down the mug. Crash! it went on the floor with a loud noise, which woke him up; and then he found himself in bed, and that he had thrown over the mug of water which he had put by his bedside to drink during the thirsty feverish hours that he lay awake.
He was not a great man, but a child.
He had not written a ballad, but broken a mug.
"Friedrich can do nothing useful."
He buried his face, and wept bitterly.
In time, his tears were dried, and as it was very early he lay awake and beat his brains. He had added nothing to his former character but the breaking of a piece of crockery. Something must be done. No more funny ballads now. He would write something terrible--miserable; something that should make other people weep as he had wept. He was in a very tragic humour indeed. He would have a hero who should go into the world to seek his fortune, and come back to find his lady-love in a nunnery; but that was an old story. Well, he would turn it the other way, and put the hero into a monastery; but that wasn't new. Then he would shut both of them up, and not let them meet again till one was a monk and the other a nun, which would be grievous enough in all reason; but this was the oldest of all. Friedrich gave up love stories on the spot. It was clearly not his forte.
Then he thought he would have a large family of brothers and sisters, and kill them all by a plague. But, besides the want of further incident, this idea did not seem to him sufficiently sad. Either from its unreality, or from their better faith, the idea of death does not possess the same gloom for the young that it does for those older minds that have a juster sense of the value of human life, and are, perhaps, more heavily bound in the chains of human interests.
No; the plague story might be pathetic, but it was not miserable--not miserable enough at any rate for Friedrich.
In truth, he felt at last that every misfortune that he could invent was lost in the depths of the real sorrow which oppressed his own life, and out of this knowledge came an idea for his ballad. What a fool never to have thought of it before!
He would write the history--the miserable bitter history--of a great man born to a small way of life, whose merits should raise him from his low estate to a deserved and glorious fame; who should toil, and strive, and struggle, and when his hopes and prayers seemed to be at last fulfilled, and the reward of his labours at hand, should awake and find that it was a dream; that he was no nearer to Fame than ever, and that he might never reach it. Here was enough sorrow for a tragedy. The ballad should be written now.
The next day. Friedrich plunged into the bookseller's shop.
"Well, now, what is it?" smiled the comfortable little bookseller.
"I want some paper, please," gasped Friedrich; "a good big bit if I may have it, and, if you please, I must go now. I will come and clean out the shop for you at the end of the week, but I am very busy to-day."
"The condition of the shop," said the little bookseller, grandiloquently, with a wave of his hand, "yields to more important matters; namely, to thy condition, my child, which is not of the best. Thou art as white as this sheet of paper, to which thou art heartily welcome. I am silent, but not ignorant. Thou wouldst be a writer, but art not yet a philosopher, my Friedrich. Thou art not fast-set on thy philosophic equilibrium. Thou hast knocked down three books and a stool since thou hast come in the shop. Be calm, my child: consider that even if truly also the fast-bound-eternally-immutable-condition of everlastingly-varying-circumstance--"
But by this time Friedrich was at home.
How he got through the next three days he never knew. He stumbled in and out of the house with the awkwardness of an idiot, and was so stupid in school that nothing but his previous good character saved him from a flogging. The day before the Feast of St. Nicholas (which was a holiday) the schoolmaster dismissed him with the severe inquiry, if he meant to be a dunce all his life? and Friedrich went home with two sentences ringing in his head--
"Do I mean to be a dunce all my life?"
"Friedrich can do nothing useful."
To-night the ballad must be finished.
He contrived to sit up beyond his usual hour, and escaped notice by crouching behind a large linen chest, and there wrote and wrote till his heart beat and his head felt as if it would split in pieces. At last, the careful mother discovered that Friedrich had not bid her good-night, and he was brought out of his hiding-place and sent to bed.
He took a light and went softly up the ladder into the loft, and, to his great satisfaction, found the others asleep. He said his prayers, and got into bed, but he did not put out the light; he put a box behind it to prevent its being seen, and drew out his paper and wrote. The ballad was done, but he must make a fair copy for the Maerchen-Frau; and very hard work it was, in his feverish excited state, to write out a thing that was finished. He worked resolutely, however, and at last completed it with trembling hands, and pushed it under his pillow.
Then he sat up in bed, and looked round him.
Time passed, and still he sat shivering and clasping his knees, and the reason he sat so was--because he dared not lie down.
The work was done, and the overstrained mind, no longer occupied, filled with ghastly fears and fancies. He did not dare to put out the light, and yet its faint glimmer only made the darkness more horrible. He did not dare to look behind him, though he knew that there was nothing there. He trembled at the scratching sound in the wainscot, though he knew that it was only mice. A sudden light on the window, and a distant chorus, did not make his heart beat less wildly from being nothing more alarming than two or three noisy students going home with torches. Then his light took the matter into its own hands, and first flared up with a suddenness that almost made Friedrich jump out of his skin, and then left him in total darkness. He could endure no longer, and, scrambling out of bed, crossed the floor to where the warm light came up the steps of the ladder from the room beneath. There our hero crouched without daring to move, and comforted himself with the sounds of life below. But it was very wearying, and yet he dared not go back. A neighbour had "dropped in," and he could see figures passing to and fro across the kitchen.
At last his sister passed, with the light shining on her golden plaits, and he risked a low murmur of "Marie! Marie!"
She stopped an instant, and then passed on; but after a few minutes, she returned, and came up the ladder with her finger on her lips to enjoin silence. He needed no caution, being instinctively aware that if one parental duty could be more obvious than another to the tradesman, it would be that of crushing such folly as Friedrich was displaying by timely severity. The boy crept back to bed, and Marie came after him.
There are unheroic moments in the lives of the greatest of men, and though when the head is strong and clear, and there is plenty of light and good company, it is highly satisfactory and proper to smile condescension upon female inanity, there are times when it is not unpleasant to be at the mercy of kind arms that pity without asking a reason, and in whose presence one may be foolish without shame. And it is not ill, perhaps, for some of us, whose acutely strung minds go up with every discovery, and down with every doubt, if we have some humble comforter (whether woman or man) on whose face a faithful spirit has set the seal of peace--a face which in its very steadfastness is "as the face of an angel."
Such a face looked down upon Friedrich, before which fancied horrors fled; and he wound his arms round Marie's neck, and laid down his head, and was comfortable, if not sublime.
After a dozen or so of purposeless kisses, she spoke--
"What is it, my beloved?"
"I--I don't think I can get to sleep," said the poet.
Marie abstained from commenting on this remark, and Friedrich was silent and comfortable. So comfortable that, though he despised her opinion on such matters he asked it in a low whisper--"Marie, dost thou not think it would be the very best thing in the world to be a great man? To labour and labour for it, and be a great man at last?"
Marie's answer was as low, but quite decided--
"Why not, Marie?"
"It is very nice to be great, and I should love to see thee a great man, Friedrich, very well indeed, but the very best thing of all is to be good. Great men are not always happy ones, though when they are good also it is very glorious, and makes one think of the words of the poor heathen in Lycaonia--'The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men.' But if ever thou art a great man, little brother, it will be the good and not the great things of thy life that will bring thee peace. Nay, rather, neither thy goodness nor thy greatness, but the mercy of GOD!"
And in this opinion Marie was obstinately fixed, and Friedrich argued no more.
"I think I shall do now," said the hero at last; "I thank thee very much, Marie."
She kissed him anew, and bade GOD bless him, and wished him good-night, and went down the ladder till her golden plaits caught again the glow of the warm kitchen, and Friedrich lost sight of her tall figure and fair face, and was alone once more.
He was better, but still he could not sleep. Wearied and vexed, he lay staring into the darkness till he heard steps upon the ladder, and became the involuntary witness of--the true St. Nicholas.
It was the mother, with a basket in her hand, and Friedrich watched her as she approached the place where all the shoes were laid out, his among them.
The children were by no means immaculate or in any way greatly superior to other families, but the mother was tender-hearted, and had a poor memory for sins that were past, and Friedrich saw her fill one shoe after another with cakes and sweetmeats. At last she came to his, and then she stopped. He lifted up his head, and an indefinable fury surged in his heart. He had been very tiresome since the ballad was begun; was she going to put rods into his shoes only? His! He could have borne anything but this. Meanwhile, she was fumbling in the basket; and, at last, pulled out--not a rod, but--a paper of cakes of another kind, to which Friedrich was particularly attached, and with these she lined the shoes thickly, and filled them up with sweetmeats, and passed on.
"Oh, mother! mother! Far, far too kind!" The awkwardness and stupidity of yesterday, and of many yesterdays, smote him to the heart, and roused once more the only too ready tears. But he did not cry long, he had a happy feeling of community with his brothers and sisters in getting more than they any of them deserved; to have seen the St. Nicholas's proceedings had diverted his mind from gloomy fancies, and altogether, with a comfortable sensation of cakes and kindness, he fell asleep smiling, and slept soundly and well.
The next day he threw his arms round his mother, and said that the cakes were "so nice."
"But I don't deserve them," he added.
"Thou'lt mend," said she kindly. "And no doubt the Saint knew that thou hadst eaten but half a dinner for a week past, and brought those cakes to tempt thee; so eat them all, my child; for, doubtless, there are plenty more where they come from."
"I am very much obliged to whoever did think of it," said Friedrich.
"And plenty more there are," said the good woman to Marie afterwards, as they were dishing the dinner. "Luise Jansen's shop is full of them. But, bless the boy! he's too clever for anything. There's no playing St. Nicholas with him."
The day went by at last, and the evening came on. The tradesman went off of himself to see if he could meet with the Burgomaster, and the children became rabid in their impatience for Friedrich's ballad.
He would not read it himself, so Marie was pressed into the service, and crowned with the hood and cloak, and elected Maerchen-Frau.
The author himself sat in an arm-chair, with a face as white and miserable as if he were ordered for execution. He formed a painful contrast to his ruddy brothers and sisters; and it would seem as if he had begun already to experience the truth of Marie's assertion, that "great men are not always happy ones."
The ballad was put into the Maerchen-Frau's hands, and she was told that Friedrich had written it. She gave a quick glance at it, and asked if he had really invented it all. The children repeated the fact, which was a pleasant but not a surprising one to them, and Marie began.
The young poet had evidently a good ear, for the verses were easy and musical, and the metre more than tolerably correct; and as the hero of the ballad worked harder and harder, and got higher and higher, the children clapped their hands, and discovered that it was "quite like Friedrich."
Why, when that hero was almost at the height of fortune, and the others gloried in his success, did the foolish author bury his face upon his arms, and sob silently but bitterly in sympathy?--moreover, with such a heavy and absorbing grief that he did not hear it, when Marie stopped for an instant and then went on again, or know that steps had come behind his chair, and that his father and the Burgomaster were in the room.
The Maerchen-Frau went on; the hero awoke from his unreal happiness to his real fate, and bewailed in verse after verse the heavy weights of birth, and poverty, and circumstance, that kept him from the heights of fame. The ballad was ended.
Then a voice fell on Friedrich's ear, which nearly took away his breath. It was his father's asking sternly, "What is all this?"
And then he knew that Marie was standing up, with a strange emotion on her face, and he heard her say--
"It is a poem that Friedrich has written. He has written it all himself. Every word. And he is but twelve years old!" She was pointing to him, or, perhaps, the Burgomaster might not have recognized in that huddled miserable figure the genius of the family.
His was the next voice, and what he said Friedrich could hardly remember; the last sentences only he clearly understood.
"GOD has not blessed me with children, neighbour. My wife, as well as I, would be ashamed if such genius were lost for want of a little money. Give the child to me. He shall have a liberal education, and will be a great man."
"I shall not," said the tradesman, "stand in the way of his interests or your commands. I cannot tell what to say to your kindness, Burgomaster. GOD willing, I hope he will be a credit to the town."
"GOD willing, he will be a credit to his country," said the Burgomaster.
The words rang in Friedrich's ears over and over again, like the changes of bells. They danced before his eyes as if he saw them in a book. They were written in his heart as if "graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever."
"GOD willing, I hope he will be a credit to the town."
"GOD willing, he will be a credit to his country."
"He shall have a liberal education, and will be a GREAT MAN."
Friedrich tried to stand on his feet and thank the Burgomaster; who, on any other occasion, might have been tempted to suppose him an idiot, so white and distorted was the child's face, struggling through tears and smiles. He could not utter a word; a mist began to come before his eyes, through which the Burgomaster's head seemed to bob up and down, and then his father's, and his mother's, and Marie's, with a look of pity on her face. He tried to tell her that he was now a great man and felt quite happy; but, unfortunately, was only able to burst into tears, and then to burst out laughing, and then a sharp pain shot through his head, and he remembered no more.
* * * * *
Friedrich had a dim consciousness of coming round after this, and being put to bed; then he fell asleep, and slept heavily. When he woke Marie was sitting by his side, and it was dark. The mother had gone downstairs, she said, and she had taken her place. Friedrich lay silent for a bit; at last he said,
"I am very happy, Marie."
"I am very glad, dearest."
"Dost thou think father will let the Burgomaster give me a good education, Marie?"
"Yes, dear, I am sure he will."
"It is very kind," said Friedrich, thoughtfully; "for I know he wants me for the business. But I will help him some day. And, Marie, I will be a good man, and when I am very rich I will give great alms to the poor."
"Thou wilt be a good man before thou art a rich one, I trust," said his dogmatic sister. "We are accepted in that we have, and not in that we have not. Thou hast great talent, and wilt give it to the Lord, whether He make thee rich or no. Wilt thou not, dearest?"
"What dost thou mean, Marie? Am I never to write anything but hymns?"
"No, no, I do not mean that," she said. "I am very ignorant and cannot rightly explain it to thee, little brother. But genius is a great and perilous gift; and, oh, Friedrich! Friedrich! promise me just this:--that thou wilt never, never write anything against the faith or the teaching of the Saviour, and that thou wilt never use the graces of poetry to cover the hideousness of any of those sins which it is the work of a lifetime to see justly, and to fight against manfully. Promise me just this."
"Oh, Marie! to think that I could be so wicked!"
"No! no!" she said, covering him with kisses. "I know thou wilt be good and great, and we shall all be proud of our little brother. GOD give thee the pen of a ready writer, and grace to use it to His glory!"
"I will," he said, "GOD help me! and I will write beautiful hymns for thee, Marie, that when I am dead shall be sung in the churches. They shall be like that Evening Hymn we sing so often. Sing it now, my sister!"
Marie cleared her throat, and in a low voice, that steadied and grew louder and sweeter till it filled the house and died away among the rafters, sang the beautiful hymn that begins--
"Herr, Dein Auge geht nicht unter, wenn es bei uns Abend wird;" (Lord! Thine eye does not go down, when it is evening with us.)
The boy lay drinking it in with that full enjoyment of simple vocal music which is so innate in the German character; and as he lay, he hummed his accustomed part in it, and the mother at work below caught up the song involuntarily, and sang at her work; and Marie's clear voice breaking through the wooden walls of the house, was heard by a passer in the street, who struck in with the bass of the familiar hymn, and went his way. Before it was ended, Friedrich was sleeping peacefully once more.
But Marie sat by the stove till the watchman in the quaint old street told the hour of midnight, when (with the childish custom taught her by the old schoolmaster long ago) she folded her hands, and murmured,
"Nisi Dominus urbem custodiat, frustra vigilat custos." (Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.)
And then she slept also.
The snow fell softly on the roof, and on the walls of the old church outside, and on the pavement of the street of the poet's native town, and the night passed and the day came.
There is little more to tell, for that night was the last night of his sorrowful humble childhood, and that day was the first day of his fame.
* * * * *
The Duke of ---- was an enlightened and generous man, and a munificent patron of the Arts and Sciences, and of literary and scientific men. He was not exactly a genius, but he was highly accomplished. He wrote a little, and played a little, and drew a little; and with fortune to befriend him, as a natural consequence he published a little, and composed a little, and framed his pictures.
But what was better and more remarkable than this, was the generous spirit in which he loved and admired those who did great things in the particular directions in which he did a little. He bought good pictures while he painted bad ones; and those writers, musicians, and artists who could say but little for his performances, had every reason to talk loudly of his liberality. He was the special admirer of talent born in obscurity; and at the time of which we are writing (many years after the events related above), the favourite "lion" in the literary clique he had gathered round him in his palace, was a certain poet--the son of a small tradesman in a small town, who had been educated by the kindness of the Burgomaster (long dead), and who now had made Germany to ring with his fame; who had visited the Courts of Europe, and received compliments from Royalty, whose plays were acted in the theatres, whose poems stood on the shelves of the booksellers, who was a great man--Friedrich!
It was a lovely evening, and the Duke, leaning on the arm of his favourite, walked up and down a terrace. The Duke was (as usual) in the best possible humour. The poet (as was not uncommon) was just in the slightest degree inclined to be in a bad one. They had been reading a critique on his poems. It was praise, it is true, but the praise was not judiciously administered, and the poet was aggrieved. He rather felt (as authors are not unapt to feel) that a poet who could write such poems should have critics created with express capabilities for understanding him. But the good Duke was in his most cheery and amiable mood, and quite bent upon smoothing his ruffled lion into the same condition.
"What impossible creatures you geniuses are to please!" he said. "Tell me, my friend, has there ever been, since you first began your career, a bit of homage or approbation that has really pleased you?"
"Oh, yes!" said the poet, in a tone that sounded like Oh, no!
"I don't believe it," said the Duke. "Come, now, could you, if you were asked, describe the happiest and proudest hour of your life?"
A new expression came into the poet's eyes, and lighted up his gaunt intellectual face. Some old memories awoke within him, and it is doubtful if he saw the landscape at which he was gazing. But the Duke was not quick, though kind; he thought that Friedrich had not heard him, and repeated the question.
"Yes," said the poet. "Yes, indeed I could."
"Well, then, let me guess," said the Duke, facetiously. (He fancied that he was bringing his crusty genius into capital condition.) "Was it when your great tragedy of 'Boadicea' was first performed in Berlin, and the theatre rose like one man to offer homage, and the gods sent thunder? I wish they had ever treated my humble efforts with as much favour. Was it then?"
"Was it when his Imperial Majesty the Emperor of ---- was pleased to present you with a gold snuff-box set with diamonds, and to express his opinion that your historical plays were incomparably among the finest productions of poetic genius?"
"His Imperial Majesty," said Friedrich, "is a brave soldier; but, a--hem!--an indifferent critic. I do not take snuff, and his Imperial Majesty does not read poetry. The interview was gratifying, but that was not the occasion. No!"
"Was it when you were staying with Dr. Kranz at G----, and the students made that great supper for you, and escorted your carriage both ways with a procession of torches?"
"Poor boys!" said the poet, laughing; "it was very kind, and they could ill afford it. But they would have drunk quite as much wine for any one who would have taken the inside out of the University clock, or burnt the Principal's wig, as they did for me. It was a very unsteady procession that brought me home, I assure you. The way they poked the torches in each other's faces left one student, as I heard, with no less than eight duels on his hands. And, oh! the manner in which they howled my most pathetic love songs! No! no!"
The Duke laughed heartily.
"Is it any of the various occasions on which the fair ladies of Germany have testified their admiration by offerings of sympathy and handiwork?"
"No!" roared the poet.
"Are you quite sure?" said the Duke, slyly. "I have heard of comforters, and slippers, and bouquets, and locks of hair, besides a dozen of warm stockings knit by the fair hands of ----"
"Spare me!" groaned Friedrich, in mock indignation. "Am I a pet preacher, that I should be smothered in female absurdities? I have hair that would stuff a sofa, comforters that would protect a regiment in Siberia, slippers, stockings ----. I shall sell them, I shall burn them. I would send them back, but the ladies send nothing but their Christian names, and to identify Luise, and Gretchen, and Catherine, and Bettina, is beyond my powers. No!"
When they had ceased laughing the Duke continued his catechism.
"Was it when the great poet G---- (your only rival) paid that handsome compliment to your verses on ----"
"No!" interrupted the poet. "A thousand times no! The great poet praised the verses you allude to simply to cover his depreciation of my 'Captive Queen,' which is among my best efforts, but too much in his own style. How Germany can worship his bombastic ---- but that's nothing! No."
"Was it when you passed accidentally through the streets of Dresden, and the crowd discovered you, and carried you to the hotel on its shoulders?"
The momentary frown passed from Friedrich's face, and he laughed again.
"And when the men who carried me twisted my leg so that I couldn't walk for a fortnight, to say nothing of the headache I endured from bowing to the populace like a Chinese mandarin? No!"
"Is it any triumph you have enjoyed in any other country in Europe?"
"My dear genius, I can guess no more; what, in the name of Fortune, was this happy occasion--this life triumph?"
"It is a long story, your highness, and entertaining to no one but myself."
"You do me injustice," said the Duke. "A long story from you is too good to be lost. Sit down, and favour me."
A patron's wishes are not to be neglected; and somewhat unwillingly the poet at last sat down, and told the story of his Ballad and of St. Nicholas's Day, as it has been told here. The fountain of tears is drier in middle age than in childhood, but he was not unmoved as he concluded.
"Every circumstance of that evening," he said, "is as fresh in my remembrance now as it was then, and will be till I die. It is a joy, a triumph, and a satisfaction that will never fade. The words that roused me from despair, that promised knowledge to my ignorance and fame to my humble condition, have power now to make my heart beat, and to bring hopeful tears into eyes that should have dried with age--
"GOD willing, he will be a credit to the town."
"GOD willing, he will be a credit to his country."
"He shall have a liberal education, and will be a great man."
"It is as good as a poem," said the delighted Duke. "I shall tell the company to-night that I am the most fortunate man in Germany. I have heard your unpublished poem. By the bye, Poet, is that ballad published?"
"No, and never will be. It shall never know less kindly criticism than it received then."
"And are you really in earnest? Was this indeed the happiest triumph your talents have ever earned?"
"It was," said Friedrich. "The first blast on the trumpet of Fame is the sweetest. Afterwards, we find it out of tune."
"Your parents are dead, I think?"
"They are, and so is my youngest sister."
"And what of Marie?"
"She married--a man who, I think, is in no way worthy of her. Not a bad, but a stupid man, with strong Bible convictions on the subject of marital authority. She is such an angel in his house as he can never understand in this world."
"Do you ever see her?"
"Sometimes, when I want a rest. I went to see her not long ago, and found her just the same as ever. I sat at her feet, and laid my head in her lap, and tried to be a child again. I bade her tell me the history of Bluebeard, and strove to forget that I had ever lost the childish simplicity which she has kept so well;--and I almost succeeded. I had forgotten that the great poet was jealous of my 'Captive Queen,' and told myself it would be a grand thing to be like him. I thought I should like to see a live Emperor. But just when the delusion was perfect, there was a row in the street. The people had found me out, and I must show myself at the window. The spell was broken. I have not tried it again."
They were on the steps of the palace.
"Your story has entertained and touched me beyond measure," said the Duke. "But something is wanting. It does not (as they say) 'end well.' I fear you are not happy."
"I am content," said Friedrich. "Yes, I am happy. I never could be a child again, even if it pleased GOD to restore to me the circumstances of my childhood. It is best as it is, but I have learnt the truth of what Marie told me. It is the good, and not the great things of my life that bring me peace; or rather, neither one nor the other, but the undeserved mercies of my GOD!"
* * * * *
For those who desire to know more of the poet's life than has been told, this is added. He did not live to be very old. A painful disease (the result of mental toil), borne through many years, ended his life almost in its prime. He retained his faculties till the last, and bore protracted suffering with a heroism and endurance which he had not always displayed in smaller trials. The medical men pronounced, on the authority of a post-mortem examination, that he must for years have suffered a silent martyrdom. Truly, his bodily sufferings (when known at last) might well excuse many weaknesses and much moody, irritable impatience; especially when it is remembered that the mental sufferings of intellectual men are generally great in proportion to their gifts, and (when clogged with nerves and body that are ever urged beyond their strength) that they often mock the pride of humanity by leaving but little space between the genius and the madman.
Another fact was not known till he had died--his charity. Then it was discovered how much kindness he had exercised in secret, and that three poor widows had been fed daily from his table during all the best years of his prosperity. Before his death he arranged all his affairs, even to the disposal of his worn-out body.
"My country has been gracious to me," he said, "and, if it cares, may dispose of my carcase as it will. But I desire that after my death my heart may be taken from my body and buried at the feet of my father and my mother in the churchyard of my native town. At their feet," he added, with some of the old imperiousness--"strong in death." "At their feet, remember!"
In one of the largest cities of Germany, a huge marble monument is erected to the memory of the Great Man. On three sides of the pedestal are bas-relief designs illustrating some of his works, whereby three fellow-countrymen added to their fame; and on the fourth is a fine inscription in Latin, setting forth his talents, and his virtues, and the honours conferred on him, and stating in conclusion (on the authority of his eulogizer) that his works have gained for him immortality.
In a quiet green churchyard, near a quiet little town, under the shadow of the quaint old church, a little cross marks the graves of a tradesman and of his wife who lived and laboured in their generation, and are at rest. Near them, daisies grow above the dust of the "Fraeulein," which awaits the resurrection from the dead. And at the feet of that simple couple lies the heart of their great son--a heart which the sickness of earthly hope and the fever of earthly ambition shall disturb no more.
By the Poet's own desire, "the rude memorial" that marks the spot contains no more than his initials, and a few words in his native tongue to mark the foundation of the only ambition that he could feel in death--
"Ich verlasse mich auf Gottes Guete immer und ewiglich."
--My trust is in the tender mercy of GOD for ever and ever.