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

Reinhold leaves Master Martin’s house.

If formerly there had been merry days in Master Martin’s workshop, so now they were proportionately dull. Reinhold, incapable of work, remained confined to his room; Martin, his wounded arm in a sling, was incessantly abusing the good-for-nothing stranger-apprentice, and railing at him for the mischief he had wrought Rose, and even Dame Martha and her children, avoided the scene of the rash savage deed, and so Frederick’s blows fell dull and melancholy enough, like a woodcutter’s in a lonely wood in winter time, for to Frederick it was now left to finish the big cask alone, and a hard task it was.

And soon his mind and heart were possessed by a profound sadness, for he believed he had now clear proofs of what he had for a long time feared. He no longer had any doubt that Rose loved Reinhold. Not only had she formerly shown many a kindness to Reinhold alone, and to him alone given many a sweet word, but now — it was as plain as noonday — since Reinhold could no longer come to work. Rose too no longer thought of going out, but preferred to stay indoors, no doubt to wait upon and take good care of her lover. On Sundays, when all the rest set out gaily, and Master Martin, who had recovered to some extent of his wound, invited him to walk with him and Rose to the Allerwiese, he refused the invitation; but, burdened with trouble and the bitter pain of disappointed love, he hastened off alone to the village and the hill where he had first met with Reinhold. He threw himself down in the tall grass where the flowers grew, and as he thought how that the beautiful star of hope which had shone before him all along his homeward path had now suddenly set in the blackness of night after he had reached his goal, and as he thought how that this step which he had taken was like the vain efforts of a dreamer stretching out his yearning arms after an empty vision of air — the tears fell from his eyes and dropped upon the flowers, which bent their little heads as if sorrowing for the young journeyman’s great unhappiness. Without his being exactly conscious of it, the painful sighs which escaped his labouring breast assumed the form of words, of musical notes, and he sang this song:—

My star of hope,

Where hast thou gone?

Alas! thy glory rises up —

Thy glory sweet, far from me now —

And pours its light on others down.

Ye rustling evening breezes, rouse you,

Blow on my breast,

Awake all joy that kills,

Awake all pain that brings to death,

So that my sore and bleeding heart,

Steeped to the core in bitter tears,

May break in yearning comfortless.

Why whisper ye, ye darksome trees?

So softly and like friends together?

And why, O golden skirts of sky.

Look ye so kindly down on me?

Show me my grave;

For that is now my haven of hope,

Where I shall calmly, softly sleep.

And as it often happens that the very greatest trouble, if only it can find vent in tears and words, softens down into a gentle melancholy, mild and painless, and that often a faint glimmer of hope appears then in the soul, so it was with Frederick; when he had sung this song he felt wonderfully strengthened and comforted The evening breezes and the darksome trees that he had called upon in his song rustled and whispered words of consolation; and like the sweet dreams of distant glory or of distant happiness, golden streaks of light worked their way up across the dusky sky. Frederick rose to his feet, and went down the hill into the village. He almost fancied that Reinhold was walking beside him as he did on the day they first found each other; and all the words which Reinhold had spoken again recurred to his mind. And as his thoughts dwelt upon Reinhold’s story about the contest between the two painters who were friends, then the scales fell from his eyes. There was no doubt about it; Reinhold must have seen Rose before and loved her. It was only his love for her which had brought him to Nuremberg to Master Martin’s, and by the contest between the two painters he meant simply and solely their own — Reinhold’s and Frederick’s — rival wooing of beautiful Rose. The words that Reinhold had then spoken rang again in his ears — “Honest contention for the same prize, without any malicious reserve, ought to unite true friends and knit their hearts still closer together, instead of setting them at variance. There should never be any place in noble minds for petty envy or malicious hatred.” “Yes,” exclaimed Frederick aloud, “yes, friend of my heart, I will appeal to you without any reserve, you yourself shall tell me if all hope for me is lost.”

It was approaching noon when Frederick tapped at Reinhold’s door. As all remained still within, he pushed open the door, which was not locked as usual, and went in. But the moment he did so he stood rooted to the spot. Upon an easel, the glorious rays of the morning sun falling upon it, was a splendid picture, Rose in all the pride of her beauty and charms, and life size. The maul-stick lying on the table, and the wet colours of the palette, showed that some one had been at work on the picture quite recently. “O Rose, Rose! — By Heaven!” sighed Frederick. Reinhold, who had entered behind him unperceived, clapped him on the shoulder and asked, smiling, “Well, now, Frederick, what do you say to my picture!” Then Frederick pressed him to his heart and cried, “Oh you splendid fellow — you are indeed a noble artist. Yes, it’s all clear to me now. You have won the prize — for which I— poor me! — had the hardihood to struggle. Oh! what am I in comparison with you? And what is my art against yours? And yet I too had some fine ideas in my head. Don’t laugh at me, dear Reinhold; but, look you, I thought what a grand thing it would be to model Rose’s lovely figure and cast it in the finest silver. But that’s all childishness, whilst you — you — Oh! how sweetly she smiles upon you, and how delightfully you have brought out all her beauty. O Reinhold! Reinhold! you happy, happy fellow! Ay, and it has all come about as you said long ago. We have both striven for the prize and you have won it: you could not help but win it, and I shall still continue to be your friend with all my heart But I must leave this house — my home: I cannot bear it, I should die if I were to see Rose again. Please forgive me, my dear, dear, noble friend. To-day, this very moment, I will go — go away into the wide world, where my trouble, my unbearable misery, is sending me.” And thus speaking, Frederick was hastening out of the apartment, but Reinhold held him fast, saying gently, “You shall not go; for things may turn out quite different from what you think. It is now time for me to tell you all that I have hitherto kept silence about. That I am not a cooper but a painter you are now well aware, and I hope a glance at this picture will convince you that I am not to be ranked amongst the inferior artists. Whilst still young I went to Italy, the land of art; there I had the good fortune to be accepted as a pupil by renowned masters, who fostered into living fire the spark which glowed within me. Thus it came to pass that I rapidly rose into fame, that my pictures became celebrated throughout all Italy, and the powerful Duke of Florence1 summoned me to his court. At that time I would not hear a word about German art, and without having seen any of your pictures, I talked a good deal of nonsense about the coldness, the bad drawing, and the hardness of your Dürer and your Cranach.2 But one day a picture-dealer brought a small picture of the Madonna by old Albrecht to the Duke’s gallery, and it made a powerful and wonderful impression upon me, so that I turned away completely from the voluptuousness of Italian art, and from that very hour determined to go back to my native Germany and study there the masterpieces upon which my heart was now set I came to Nuremberg here, and when I beheld Rose I seemed to see the Madonna who had so wonderfully stirred my heart, walking in bodily form on earth. I had the same experiences as you, dear Frederick; the bright flames of love flashed up and consumed me, mind and heart and soul. I saw nothing, I thought of nothing, but Rose; all else had vanished from my mind; and even art itself only retained its hold upon me in so far as it enabled me to draw and paint Rose again and again — hundreds of times. I would have approached the maiden in the free Italian way; but all my attempts proved fruitless. There was no means of securing a footing of intimacy in Master Martin’s house in any insidious way. At last I made up my mind to sue for Rose directly, when I learned that Master Martin had determined to give his daughter only to a good master-cooper. Straightway I formed the adventurous resolve to go and learn the trade of cooperage in Strasburg, and then to come and work in Master Martin’s work-shop. I left all the rest to the ordering of Providence. You know in what way I carried out my resolve; but I must now also tell you what Master Martin said to me some days ago. He said I should make a skilful cooper and should be a right dear and worthy son-inlaw, for he saw plainly that I was seeking to gain Rose’s favour, and that she liked me right well.” “Can it then indeed well be otherwise?” cried Frederick, painfully agitated “Yes, yes, Rose will be yours; how came I, unhappy wretch that I am, ever to hope for such happiness?” “You are forgetting, my brother,” Reinhold went on to say; “you are forgetting that Rose herself has not confirmed this, which our cunning Master Martin no doubt is well aware of. True it is that Rose has always shown herself kind and charming towards me, but a loving heart betrays itself in other ways. Promise me, brother, to remain quiet for three days longer, and to go to your work in the shop as usual. I also could now go to work again, but since I have been busy with, and wrapt up in this picture, I feel an indescribable disgust at that coarse rough work out yonder. And, what is more, I can never lay hand upon mallet again, let come what will. On the third day I will frankly tell you how matters stand between me and Rose. If I should really be the lucky one to whom she has given her love, then you may go your way and make trial of the experience that time can cure the deepest wounds.” Frederick promised to await his fate.

On the third day Frederick’s heart beat with fear and anxious expectation; he had in the meantime carefully avoided meeting Rose. Like one in a dream he crept about the workshop, and his awkwardness gave Master Martin, no doubt, just cause for his grumbling and scolding, which was not by any means customary with him. Moreover, the master seemed to have encountered something that completely spoilt all his good spirits. He talked a great deal about base tricks and ingratitude, without clearly expressing what he meant by it. When at length evening came, and Frederick was returning towards the town, he saw not far from the gate a horseman coming to meet him, whom he recognised to be Reinhold. As soon as the latter caught sight of Frederick he cried, “Ha! ha! I meet you just as I wanted.” And leaping from his horse, he slung the rein over his arm, and grasped his friend’s hand. “Let us walk along a space beside each other,” he said. “Now I can tell you what luck I have had with my suit.” Frederick observed that Reinhold wore the same clothes which he had worn when they first met each other, and that the horse bore a portmanteau. Reinhold looked pale and troubled. “Good luck to you, brother,” he began somewhat wildly; “good luck to you. You can now go and hammer away lustily at your casks; I will yield the field to you. I have just said adieu to pretty Rose and worthy Master Martin.” “What!” exclaimed Frederick, whilst an electric thrill, as it were, shot through all his limbs —“what! you are going away now that Master Martin is willing to take you for his son-inlaw, and Rose loves you?” Reinhold replied, “That was only a delusion, brother, which your jealousy has led you into. It has now come out that Rose would have had me simply to show her dutifulness and obedience, but there’s not a spark of love glowing in her ice-cold heart. Ha! ha! I should have made a fine cooper — that I should. Week-days scraping hoops and planing staves, Sundays walking beside my honest wife to St. Catherine’s or St. Sebald’s, and in the evening to the Allerwiese, year after year”—— “Nay, mock not,” said Frederick, interrupting Reinhold’s loud laughter, “mock not at the excellent burgher’s simple, harmless life. If Rose does not really love you, it is not her fault; you are so passionate, so wild.” “You are right,” said Reinhold; “It is only the silly way I have of making as much noise as a spoilt child when I conceive I have been hurt. You can easily imagine that I spoke to Rose of my love and of her father’s good-will. Then the tears started from her eyes, and her hand trembled in mine. Turning her face away, she whispered, ‘I must submit to my father’s will’— that was enough for me. My peculiar resentment, dear Frederick, will now let you see into the depths of my heart; I must tell you that my striving to win Rose was a deception, imposed upon me by my wandering mind. After I had finished Rose’s picture my heart grew calm; and often, strange enough, I fancied that Rose was now the picture, and that the picture was become the real Rose. I detested my former coarse, rude handiwork; and when I came so intimately into contact with the incidents of common life, getting one’s ‘mastership’ and getting married, I felt as if I were going to be confined in a dungeon and chained to the stocks. How indeed can the divine being whom I carry in my heart ever be my wife? No, she shall for ever stand forth glorious in youth, grace, and beauty, in the pictures — the masterpieces — which my restless spirit shall create. Oh! how I long for such things! How came I ever to turn away from my divine art? O thou glorious land, thou home of Art, soon again will I revel amidst thy cool and balmy airs.” The friends had reached the place where the road which Reinhold intended to take turned to the left. “Here we will part,” cried Reinhold, pressing Frederick to his heart in a long warm embrace; then he threw himself upon horseback and galloped away. Frederick stood watching him without uttering a word, and then, agitated by the most unaccountable feelings, he slowly wended his way homewards.

1 At this time Francesco I. (of the illustrious house of Medici) was Grand Duke of Tuscany, his father Cosimo I. having exchanged the title of Duke of Florence for that of Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1569. Francesco did much for the encouragement of art and science. He founded the well-known Uffizi Gallery, and it was in his reign that the Accademia Della Crusca was instituted.

2 Lucas Cranach occupies along with his contemporary Albrecht Dürer the first place in the ranks of German painters. Born in Upper Franconia in 1472 (died 1553), he secured the favour of the Elector of Saxony, and manifested extraordinary activity in several branches of painting.

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