Master Martin, the Cooper, and his Journeyman, by E. T. A. Hoffmann


However angry Master Martin might feel towards Reinhold and Frederick, he could not but admit to himself that along with them all joy and all pleasure had disappeared from the workshop. Every day he was annoyed and provoked by the new journeymen. He had to look after every little trifle, and it cost him no end of trouble and exertion to get even the smallest amount of work done to his mind. Quite tired out with the cares of the day, he often sighed, “O Reinhold! O Frederick! I wish you had not so shamefully deceived me, I wish you had been good coopers.” Things at last got so bad that he often contemplated the idea of giving up business altogether.

As he was sitting at home one evening in one of these gloomy moods, Herr Jacobus Paumgartner and along with him Master Johannes Holzschuer came in quite unexpectedly. He saw at once that they were going to talk about Frederick; and in fact Herr Paumgartner very soon turned the conversation upon him, and Master Holzschuer at once began to say all he could in praise of the young fellow. It was his opinion that Frederick with his industry and his gifts would certainly not only make an excellent goldsmith, but also a most admirable art-caster, and would tread in Peter Fischer’s footsteps. And now Herr Paumgartner began to reproach Master Martin in no gentle terms for his unkind treatment of his poor journeyman Frederick, and they both urged him to give Rose to the young fellow to wife when he was become a skilful goldsmith and caster — that is, of course, in case she looked with favour upon him — for his affection for her tingled in every vein he had. Master Martin let them have their say out, then he doffed his cap and said, smiling, “That’s right, my good sirs, I’m glad you stand up so bravely for the journeyman who so shamefully deceived me. That, however, I will forgive him; but don’t ask that I should alter my fixed resolve for his sake; Rose can never be anything to him.” At this moment Rose entered the room, pale and with eyes red with weeping, and she silently placed wine and glasses on the table. “Well then,” began Herr Holzschuer, “I must let poor Frederick have his own way; he wants to leave home for ever. He has done a beautiful piece of work at my shop, which, if you, my good master, will allow, he will present to Rose as a keepsake; look at it.” Whereupon Master Holzschuer produced a small artistically-chased silver cup, and handed it to Master Martin, who, a great lover of costly vessels and such like, took it and examined it on all sides with much satisfaction. And indeed a more splendid piece of silver work than this little cup could hardly be seen. Delicate chains of vine-leaves and roses were intertwined round about it, and pretty angels peeped up out of the roses and the bursting buds, whilst within, on the gilded bottom of the cup, were engraved angels lovingly caressing each other. And when the clear bright wine was poured into the cup, the little angels seemed to dance up and down as if playing prettily together. “It is indeed an elegant piece of work,” said Master Martin, “and I will keep it if Frederick will take the double of what it is worth in good gold pieces.” Thus speaking, he filled the cup and raised it to his lips. At this moment the door was softly opened, and Frederick stepped in, his countenance pale and stamped with the bitter, bitter pain of separating for ever from her he held dearest on earth. As soon as Rose saw him she uttered a loud piercing cry, “O my dearest Frederick!” and fell almost fainting on his breast. Master Martin set down the cup, and on seeing Rose in Frederick’s arms opened his eyes wide as if he saw a ghost. Then he again took up the cup without speaking a word, and looked into it; but all at once he leapt from his seat and cried in a loud voice, “Rose, Rose, do you love Frederick?” “Oh!” whispered Rose, “I cannot any longer conceal it, I love him as I love my own life; my heart nearly broke when you sent him away.” “Then embrace your betrothed, Frederick; yes, yes, your betrothed, Frederick,” cried Master Martin. Paumgartner and Holzschuer looked at each other utterly bewildered with astonishment, but Master Martin, holding the cup in his hand, went on, “By the good God, has it not all come to pass as the old lady prophesied? —

‘A vessel fair to see he’ll bring,

In which the spicy liquid foams.

And bright, bright angels gaily sing.

. . . The vessel fair with golden grace,

Lo! him who brings it in the house,

Thou wilt reward with sweet embrace.

And, an thy lover be but true,

Thou need’st not wait thy father’s kiss.’

“O Stupid fool I have been! Here is the vessel fair to see, the angels — the lover — Ay! ay! gentlemen; it’s all right now, all right now; my son-inlaw is found.”

Whoever has had his mind ever confused by a bad dream, so that he thought he was lying in the deep cold blackness of the grave, and suddenly he awakens in the midst of the bright spring-tide full of fragrance and sunshine and song, and she whom he holds dearest on earth has come to him and has cast her arms about him, and he can look up into the heaven of her lovely face — whoever has at any time experienced this will understand Frederick’s feelings, will comprehend his exceeding great happiness. Unable to speak a word, he held Rose tightly clasped in his arms as though he would never let her leave him, until she at length gently disengaged herself and led him to her father. Then he found his voice, “O my dear master, is it all really true? You will give me Rose to wife, and I may go back to my art?” “Yes, yes,” said Master Martin, “you may in truth believe it; can I do any other since you have fulfilled my old grandmother’s prophecy? You need not now of course go on with your masterpiece.” Then Frederick, perfectly radiant with delight, smiled and said, “No, my dear master, if it be pleasing to you I will now gladly and in good spirits finish my big cask — my last piece of work in cooperage — and then I will go back to the melting-furnace.” “Yes, my good brave son,” replied Master Martin, his eyes sparkling with joy, “yes, finish your masterpiece, and then we’ll have the wedding.”

Frederick kept his word faithfully, and finished the two-tun cask; and all the masters declared that it would be no easy task to do a finer piece of work, whereat Master Martin was delighted down to the ground, and was moreover of opinion that Providence could not have found for him a more excellent son-inlaw.

At length the wedding day was come, Frederick’s masterpiece stood in the entrance hall filled with rich wine, and crowned with garlands. The masters of the trade, with the syndic Jacobus Paumgartner at their head, put in an appearance along with their housewives, followed by the master goldsmiths. All was ready for the procession to begin its march to St. Sebald’s Church, where the pair were to be married, when a sound of trumpets was heard in the street, and a neighing and stamping of horses before Martin’s house. Master Martin hastened to the bay-window. It was Herr Heinrich von Spangenberg, in gay holiday attire, who had pulled up in front of the house; a few paces behind him, on a high-spirited horse, sat a young and splendid knight, his glittering sword at his side, and high-coloured feathers in his baretta, which was also adorned with flashing jewels. Beside the knight, Herr Martin perceived a wondrously beautiful lady, likewise splendidly dressed, seated on a jennet the colour of fresh-fallen snow. Pages and attendants in brilliant coats formed a circle round about them. The trumpet ceased, and old Herr von Spangenberg shouted up to him, “Aha! aha! Master Martin, I have not come either for your wine cellar or for your gold pieces, but only because it is Rose’s wedding day. Will you let me in, good master?” Master Martin remembered his own words very well, and was a little ashamed of himself; but he hurried down to receive the Junker. The old gentleman dismounted, and after greeting him, entered the house. Some of the pages sprang forward, and upon their arms the lady slipped down from her palfrey; the knight gave her his hand and followed the old gentleman. But when Master Martin looked at the young knight he recoiled three paces, struck his hands together, and cried, “Good God! Conrad!” “Yes, Master Martin,” said the knight, smiling, “I am indeed your journeyman Conrad. Forgive me for the wound I inflicted on you. But you see, my good master, that I ought properly to have killed you; but things have now all turned out different.” Greatly confused, Master Martin replied, that it was after all better that he had not been killed; of the little bit of a cut with the adze he had made no account. Now when Master Martin with his new guests entered the room where the bridal pair and the rest were assembled, they were all agreeably surprised at the beautiful lady, who was so exactly like the bride, even down to the minutest feature, that they might have been taken for twin-sisters. The knight approached the bride with courtly grace and said, “Grant, lovely Rose, that Conrad be present here on this auspicious day. You are not now angry with the wild thoughtless journeyman who was nigh bringing a great trouble upon you, are you?” But as the bridegroom and the bride and Master Martin were looking at each other in great wonder and embarrassment, old Herr von Spangenberg said, “Well, well, I see I must help you out of your dream. This is my son Conrad, and here is his good, true wife, named Rose, like the lovely bride. Call our conversation to mind, Master Martin. I had a very special reason for asking you whether you would refuse your Rose to my son. The young puppy was madly in love with her, and he induced me to lay aside all other considerations and make up my mind to come and woo her on his behalf. But when I told him in what an uncourteous way I had been dismissed, he in the most nonsensical way stole into your house in the guise of a cooper, intending to win her favour and then actually to run away with her. But — you cured him with that good sound blow across his back; my best thanks for it. And now he has found a lady of rank who most likely is, after all, the Rose who was properly in his heart from the beginning.”

Meanwhile the lady had with graceful kindness greeted the bride, and hung a valuable pearl necklace round her neck as a wedding present. “See here, dear Rose,” she then said, taking a very withered bunch of flowers out from amongst the fresh blooming ones which she wore at her bosom —“see here, dear Rose, these are the flowers that you once gave my Conrad as the prize of victory; he kept them faithfully until he saw me, then he was unfaithful to you and gave them to me; don’t be angry with me for it.” Rose, her cheeks crimson, cast down her eyes in shy confusion, saying, “Oh! noble lady, how can you say so? Could the Junker then ever really love a poor maiden like me? You alone were his love, and it was only because I am called Rose, and, as they say here, something like you, that he wooed me, all the while thinking it was you.”

A second time the procession was about to set out, when a young man entered the room, dressed in the Italian style, all in black slashed velvet, with an elegant lace collar and rich golden chains of honour hanging from his neck. “O Reinhold, my Reinhold!” cried Frederick, throwing himself upon the young man’s breast. The bride and Master Martin also cried out excitedly, “Reinhold, our brave Reinhold is come!” “Did I not tell you,” said Reinhold, returning Frederick’s embrace with warmth — “did I not tell you, my dear, dear friend, that things might turn out gloriously for you? Let me celebrate your wedding day with you; I have come a long way on purpose to do so; and as a lasting memento hang up in your house the picture which I have painted for you and brought with me.” And then he called down to his two servants, who brought in a large picture in a magnificent gold frame. It represented Master Martin in his workshop along with his journeymen Reinhold, Frederick, and Conrad working at the great cask, and lovely Rose was just entering the shop. Everybody was astonished at the truth and magnificent colouring of the piece as a work of art. “Ay,” said Frederick, smiling, “that is, I suppose, your masterpiece as cooper; mine is below yonder in the entrance-hall; but I shall soon make another.” “I know all,” replied Reinhold, “and rate you lucky. Only stick fast to your art; it can put up with more domesticity and such-like than mine.”

At the marriage feast Frederick sat between the two Roses, and opposite him Master Martin between Conrad and Reinhold. Then Herr Paumgartner filled Frederick’s cup up to the brim with rich wine, and drank to the weal of Master Martin and his brave journeymen. The cup went round; and first it was drained by the noble Junker Heinrich von Spangenberg, and after him by all the worthy masters who sat at the table — to the weal of Master Martin and his brave journeymen.

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The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55