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

What afterwards took place in Master Martin’s house.

Now it happened that Councillor Jacobus Paumgartner had to pass by Master Martin’s in order to reach his own home; and as they both stood outside Master Martin’s door, and Paumgartner was about to proceed on his way, his friend, doffing his low bonnet, and bowing respectfully and as low as he was able, said to him, “I should be very glad, my good and worthy sir, if you would not disdain to step in and spend an hour or so in my humble house. Be pleased to suffer me to derive both profit and entertainment from your wise conversation.” “Ay, ay! Master Martin, my friend,” replied Paumgartner smiling, “gladly enough will I stay a while with you; but why do you call your house a humble house? I know very well that there’s none of the richest of our citizens who can excel you in jewels and valuable furniture. Did you not a short time ago complete a handsome building which makes your house one of the ornaments of our renowned Imperial Town?1 In respect of its interior fittings I say nothing, for no patrician even need be ashamed of it.”

Old Paumgartner was right; for on opening the door, which was brightly polished and richly ornamented with brass-work, they stepped into a spacious entrance hall almost resembling a state-room; the floor was tastefully inlaid, fine pictures hung on the walls, and the cupboards and chairs were all artistically carved. And all who came in willingly obeyed the direction inscribed in verses, according to olden custom, on a tablet which hung near the door:—

Let him who will the stairs ascend

See that his shoes be rubbed well clean.

Or taken off were better, I ween;

He thus avoids what might offend.

A thoughtful man is well aware

How he indoors himself should bear.

It had been a hot day, and now as the hour of twilight was approached it began to be close and stuffy in the rooms, so Master Martin led his eminent guest into the cool and spacious parlour-kitchen. For this was the name applied at that time to a place in the houses of the rich citizens which, although furnished as a kitchen, was never used as such — all kinds of valuable utensils and other necessaries of housekeeping being there set out on show. Hardly had they got inside the door when Master Martin shouted in a loud voice, “Rose, Rose!” Then the door was immediately opened, and Rose, Master Martin’s only daughter, came in.

I should like you, dear reader, to awaken at this moment a vivid recollection of our great Albrecht Dürer’s masterpieces; I would wish that the glorious maidens whom we find in them, with all their noble grace, their sweet gentleness and piety, should recur to your mind, endowed with living form. Recall the noble and delicate figure, the beautifully arched, lily-white forehead, the carnation flitting like a breath of roses across the cheek, the full sweet cherry-red lips — recall the eyes full of pious aspirations, half-veiled by their dark lashes, like moonlight seen through dusky foliage — recall the silky hair, artfully gathered into graceful plaits — recall the divine beauty of these maidens, and you will see lovely Rose. How else than in this way could the narrator sketch the dear, darling child? And yet permit me to remind you here of an admirable young artist into whose heart a quickening ray has fallen from these beautiful old times. I mean the German painter Cornelius,2 in Rome. Just as Margaret looks in Cornelius’s drawings to Goethe’s mighty Faust when she utters the words, “Bin weder Fräulein noch schön”3 (I am neither a lady of rank, nor yet beautiful), so also may Rose have looked when in the shyness of her pure chaste heart she felt compelled to shun addresses that smacked somewhat too much of freedom.

Rose bowed low with child-like respect before Paumgartner, and taking his hand, pressed it to her lips. The crimson colour rushed into the old gentleman’s pale cheeks, as the sun when setting shoots up a dying flash, suddenly converting the dark foliage into gold, so the fire of a youth now left far behind gleamed once more in his eyes. “Ay! ay!” he cried in a blithesome voice, “marry, my good friend Master Martin, you are a rich and a prosperous man, but the best of all the blessings which the good Lord has given you is your lovely daughter Rose. If the hearts of old gentlemen like us who sit in the Town Council are so stirred that we cannot turn away our purblind eyes from the dear child, who can find fault with the young folks if they stop and stand like blocks of wood, or as if spell-bound, when they meet your daughter in the street, or see her at church, though we have a word of blame for our clerical gentry, because on the Allerwiese,4 or wherever else a festival is held, they all crowd round your daughter, with their sighs, and loving glances, and honied words, to the vexation of all other girls? Well, well, Master Martin, you can choose you your son-inlaw amongst any of our young patricians, or wherever else you may list.”

A dark frown settled on Master Martin’s face; he bade his daughter fetch some good old wine; and after she had left the room, the hot blushes mantling thick and fast upon her cheeks, and her eyes bent upon the floor, he turned to old Paumgartner, “Of a verity, my good sir, Heaven has dowered my daughter with exceptional beauty, and herein too I have been made rich; but how can you speak of it in the girl’s presence? And as for a patrician son-inlaw, there’ll never be anything of that sort.” “Enough, Master Martin, say no more,” replied Paumgartner, laughing. “Out of the fulness of the heart the mouth must speak. Don’t you believe, then, that when I set eyes on Rose the sluggish blood begins to leap in my old heart also? And if I do honestly speak out what she herself must very well know, surely there’s no very great mischief done.”

Rose brought the wine and two beautiful drinking-glasses. Then Martin pushed the heavy table, which was ornamented with some remarkable carving, into the middle of the kitchen. Scarcely, however, had the old gentlemen taken their places and Master Martin had filled the glasses when a trampling of horses was heard in front of the house. It seemed as if a horseman had pulled up, and as if his voice was heard in the entrance-passage below. Rose hastened down and soon came back with the intelligence that old Junker5 Heinrich von Spangenberg was there and wished to speak to Master Martin. “Marry!” cried Martin, “now this is what I call a fine lucky evening, which brings me my best and oldest customer. New orders of course, I see I shall have to ‘cask’ out again”— Therewith he hastened down as fast as he was able to meet his welcome guest.

1 Nuremberg is noted for its interesting old houses with high narrow gables turned next the street: amongst the most famous are those belonging to the families of Nassau, Tucher, Peller, Petersen (formerly Toppler), and those of Albrecht Dürer and of Hans Sachs, the cobbler-poet of the 16th century.

2 Peter von Cornelius (1783–1867), founder of a great German school of historical painting. Going to Rome in 1811, he painted a set of seven scenes illustrative of Goethe’s Faust, having previously finished a set at Frankfort (on Main). Amongst his many famous works are the Last Judgment in the Ludwig Church at Munich and frescoes in the Glyptothek there.

3 Gretchen’s real words were “Bin weder Fräulein weder schön.” See the scene which follows the “Hexenküche” scene in the first part of Faust .

4 A meadow or common on the outskirts of the town, which served as a general place of recreation and amusement. Nearly every German town has such; as the Theresa Meadow at Munich, the Canstatt Meadow near Stuttgart, the Communal Meadow on the right bank of the Main not far from Frankfort (see Goethe, Wahrheit und Dichtung, near the beginning), &c.

5 This word is generally used to designate an untitled country nobleman, a member of an old-established noble “county” family. In Prussia the name came to be applied to a political party. A most interesting description of the old Prussian Junker is given in Wilibald Alexis’ (W. H. Häring’s) charming novel Die Hosen des Herrn v. Bredow (1846–48), in Sir Walter Scott’s style.

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