The Wagnerian Romances Part 11

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More and more brightly it glows, till Walhalla is discerned in its central illumination, with its enthroned G.o.ds and heroes. Flames are seen invading the stately hall. When the company of the Blessed are completely wrapped in fire, the curtain falls.

The last word of the music is the exultant phrase by which Sieglinde greeted the prophecy of Siegfried's birth. It has been woven all through Brunnhilde's last ardently happy salutation to him, as if in recognition of some mystical quality--in death--of birth.

So Wotan finds his rest, and the ill consequences at last end of his unjust act--end with the reparation of the injustice, the return of the gold to the Rhine. But has not the evil act been like the Djinn of old, let out of the insignificant-looking urn, waxing great, looming dark, and dictating hard terms! When Wotan in pride of being committed it, against two simpletons, how could he have divined that by this pin-point he set inexorable machinery moving which should bring about his confusion, forcing him in its progress to so many injustices more, injustices which his soul would loathe, which would blight his best beloved, which would by far be his greatest punishment!... The Trilogy is moral as a tract.

THE MASTER-SINGERS OF NUREMBERG

THE MASTER-SINGERS OF NUREMBERG

I

The "argument of The Master-singers" is effectually given in the Overture: Art and Love. The Masters are first--a little pompously, as befits their pretensions,--presented to us. Then Young Love sweeps across the scene, delicate musical gale. The themes of the two then mingle, foreshadowing how the affairs of Walther shall become entangled with those of the Guild.

This Walther von Stolzing, a young Franconian n.o.ble, last of his line, had for reasons which are not given forsaken the ancestral castle and come to Nuremberg in the intention of becoming a citizen there. He had brought letters to a prominent burgher of the town, Veit Pogner, the rich goldsmith, long acquainted with his family, and known to it, by reputation. Pogner had offered him every courtesy, hospitality, and a.s.sistance in the business of selling his Franconian lands.

Walther had found twenty-four hours in Nuremberg and Pogner's house ample time to fall deeply, transcendingly, rapturously, in love with the goldsmith's daughter. She is very young, very feminine, even in the respect of being little rather than large, so that she is always called, fondly, Evchen, little Eva. Her name is perhaps meant to indicate her quality of inveterate femineity. The whole story goes to show that she was pretty enough to turn heads young and old. She had been an obedient, an exemplary daughter, up to the hour of meeting Walther, allowing her father to think for her, accepting demurely his views for her. How should she not feel it best, so long as her immature heart had never spoken a word, to let a most kind and indulgent parent, whose wisdom it was not for her to question, dispose of her hand in the manner he thought most fitting? When she had seen Walther, however, a new light illumined her position.

On the second day of his acquaintance with her, it seemed to the young lord that he could not live through another night but he made sure of one point. He followed his lady to vespers, in the hope of an opportunity to exchange one private word, ask one question. It was the eve of Saint John's day. The congregation when the curtain rises is concluding an anthem to the "n.o.ble Baptist." Eva and Magdalene, her nurse, are in one of the pews that fill the nave of the church.

Walther stands in the aisle, leaning against a pillar, from which position he can watch the fair one. He tries whenever her eyes stray his way, as, irresistibly attracted, they frequently do, to convey to her by glance and gesture his prayer for a moment's interview. Magdalene feels herself repeatedly obliged to recall her young lady's attention to the church-service. The congregation rises at last and flocks to the church-door. Walther steps before the two women as they are pa.s.sing forth with the rest, with the hurried demand to Eva for a word, a single word. Magdalene, who is a step behind, has not caught his request. Eva with quick resource sends her back to the pew for her forgotten kerchief. But Walther has become alarmed at his own boldness, and instead of utilising his opportunity to utter or obtain that "single word," falls to pouring forth many disconnected words by way of leading up to the all-important question. He has not contrived to get it out before Magdalene returns. But Eva then discovers that her brooch too has been left in the pew. Walther, because he really dreads to hear an answer which may dash his dearest hopes, makes no better use of this second chance than of the first; he is still leading up to his famous question when Magdalene brings the brooch. But upon this fortune favours him, Magdalene must run back to the pew for her forgotten prayer-book; and in the brief interval of her search Walther asks breathlessly of Eva: if she be already betrothed! She does not reply by the instantaneous negative he had hoped for, and the pa.s.sionate wish breaks from his lips that he had never crossed the threshold of her father's house! Magdalene, who has rejoined them, bridles indignantly at such an expression from him. "How now, my lord, what is this you say? Scarce arrived in Nuremberg, were you not hospitably received? Is not the best afforded by kitchen and cellar, cupboard and store-room, deserving of any grat.i.tude whatever?"

Eva tries to silence her: "That is not what he meant, good Lene.

But... this information he desires of me--How am I to say it? I hardly myself understand! I feel as if I were dreaming--He wishes to know whether I am already betrothed?" Lene at this recognises, of course, that here is that reprobate thing, a lover, and remembers her first duty as a duenna, to keep off all such from her young charge. She is for hurrying home at once. Walther resolutely detains her. "Not till I know all!"--"The church is empty, every one is gone!" Eva gives as a reason for not being so punctilious. Lene sees in the very loneliness of the place a reason the more for departing with all speed,--but Fate again helps Walther. David, a youthful shoe-maker's apprentice, enters the church from the vestry, and falls to making mysterious preparations, drawing curtains which shut off the nave of the church, measuring distances on the pavement with a yard-rule. No sooner has Magdalene caught sight of him than she becomes absent-minded, and when Eva urges, "What am I to tell him? Do you tell me what I am to say!" more good-humoured than before, she vouchsafes: "Your lords.h.i.+p, the question you ask of the damsel is not so easy to answer. As a matter of truth, Evchen Pogner is betrothed----" "But no one," quickly adds the girl, "has as yet see the bridegroom!" He gathers from the two that the bridegroom shall be the victor on the following day in a song-contest, the master-singer to whom the other master-singers award the prize, and whom the bride herself crowns. It all falls strangely on the ears of one not a Nuremberger. "The master-singer?..." he falters.

"Are you not one?" Eva asks incredulously, wistfully. And when in his effort to grasp the situation exactly he continues asking questions, she answers his interrogative: "The bride then chooses?..." with complete forgetfulness of every maidenly convention, by an ardent, honest "You, or no one!"--"Are you gone mad?" Magdalene grasps her arm, shocked and fl.u.s.tered. She has, and feels no shame. "Good Lene, help me to win him!"--"But you saw him yesterday for the first time!" No, she became a victim so readily to love's torment, Eva tells Lene, because she had long known him in a picture, Albrecht Durer's painting of David, after the slaying of Goliath, his sword at his belt, his sling in his hand, his head brightly encircled with fair curls.

Joyful agitation has seized the Knight at Eva's sweet impulsive word, and, with it, bewilderment as to what must be his course in circ.u.mstances so unprecedented. He restlessly paces the pavement, trying to determine how he shall deal with the strange conditions raising their barrier between him and the object of his desire.

Magdalene calls to her the object of hers. The middle-aged spinster has a weak spot in her heart for David. The boyish shoe-maker's apprentice on his side adores her--and the pleasant bits she maternally smuggles to him from Pogner's kitchen. Questioned, he informs her that he is making the place ready for the master-singers. There is to be directly a song-trial: such song-apprentices as commit no offence against the table of rules are to be promoted to masters.h.i.+p.

Here would be the Knight's chance, reflects Lene,--his one chance to be made master before the fateful morrow. When, as they are leaving, Walther offers the ladies his company to Master Pognet's, she bids him wait rather for Pogner where he stands: if he wishes to enter the contest for Evchen's hand, Fortune has favoured him with respect to time and place. "What am I to do?" asks the lover eagerly. David shall instruct him, and Magdalene herself instructs David to make himself useful to the Knight. "Something choice from the kitchen I will save for you. And if the young lord here shall to-day be made a master, you may to-morrow proffer your requests full boldly!"

"Shall I see you again?" Eva shyly asks of Walther, as Magdalene is hurrying her off. His answer gives the keynote of him, characteristic outburst that it is of his vital, vigourous, enthusiastic youth, to which all things seem possible--beautiful youth, which has the splendour and force of fire, with the freshness of flowers; which flashes like a sword and trembles like a lute-string. "Shall I see you again?" It is after vespers. "This evening, surely!" he replies: "How shall I tell you what I would be willing to undertake for your sake? New is my heart, new is my mind, new to me is all this which I am entering upon. One thing only I know, one thing only I grasp, that I will devote soul and senses to winning you!

If it may not be with the sword, I must achieve it with song, and as a master sing you mine! For you, my blood and my possessions, for you, the sacred aspiration of a poet!" Strains from this sweet and proud profession are scattered all through the story, they are the Walther-motifs, heard in his first sigh as he watches her from the shadow of the church-pillar, and woven finally into his prize-song. And the effect of youth that goes magically with them!

The fragrance that belongs to them, with the fire! As of green things in early May, wet with the dew of dawn,--the beams of the rising sun kindling all to a softly-dazzling glory. The hearer feels himself young too with an immortal youth.... But words are never so ineffectual as when they would translate music.

When Walther and Eva part, they are candidly lovers, for she has joined her voice to his at the closing words of his profession, and herself warmly professed: "My heart with its blessed ardour,--for you, its love-consecrated kindness!" In a moment the women are gone. Walther casts himself in a great high-backed carved seat which apprentices have a moment before placed in the conspicuous position it occupies, and is absorbed in the attempt to collect himself, deal with his swarming emotions, order his wild thoughts, scheme what to do. The excited blood in his veins sings the song of his youth.

Apprentices in number, lively and mischievous imps, have entered and are setting the place aright for the meeting of the master-singers, placing seats for these on one side and forms for themselves on the opposite side, arranging near the centre a platform and blackboard enclosed by curtains. David stands studying that original who supposes one can be made a master in an hour. The gentleman's rank and fine feathers do not impress the youth, who feels himself rather, with respect to the requirements of the hour, in a position to patronise.

Walther is startled to hear him suddenly shout: "Begin!" "What is the matter?" he inquires, waking out of his dream. "Begin! That is what the Marker calls out, and then you must sing. Don't you know that?"--"Who is the Marker?"--"Don't you know? Have you never been to a song-trial?"--"Never, where the judges were artisans."--"Are you a poet?"--"Would that I were!"--"Are you a singer?"--"Would that I knew!"--"But you have at least been a 'school-frequenter' and a 'pupil?'"--"It all sounds foreign to my ear!"--"And you wish to become a master, off-hand, like that?"--"What enormous difficulty does the matter present?"--David groans: "Oh, Lene, Lene... oh, Magdalene!"--"What a to-do you make! Come, tell me, in good faith, what I must do!" David has now the chance he loves. Here is one who knows nothing whatever of the things it is his pride to have learned at least the names of, the things to a Nuremberger worth knowing among all. The ignoramus shall be properly dazzled. David strikes an att.i.tude. "Myself," he informs Walther, "I am learning the Art from the greatest master in Nuremberg, Hans Sachs. For a full year I have received his instructions. Shoe-making and poetry I learn simultaneously. When I have pounded the leather even and smooth, I learn of vowel-sounds and of consonance. When I have waxed the thread hard and stiff, I apply myself to the rules of rhyme. While punching holes and driving the awl, I commit the science of rhythm and number...." And so forth. For a full year he has been learning, and how far does Walther suppose he has got? The Knight suggests, laughing: "To the making of a right good pair of shoes!" Nay, this top-lofty aristocrat, with his jokes, does not in the least understand! And David enlarges further on the great and various difficulties in the way of him who aspires to become a master-singer. A "bar," let him know, has manifold parts and divisions, full difficult to master the law thereof!... And then comes the "after-song," which must not be too short, nor yet too long, and must contain no rhyme already used in the foregoing stanzas. But even when a person has learned and knows all this, even then he is not yet called a master. For there are a thousand subtleties and refinements the aspirant must still make his own.

Whether David in showing off draws a bit upon his fancy, or whether the master-singers really cherished these distinctions in mode and tone, one can but wonder. Suggestive the t.i.tles of them certainly are. Glibly, grandly, and with a rich relish, David tells them off: The fool's-cap, the black-ink mode; the red, blue and green tones; the hawthorn-blossom, straw-wisp, fennel modes; the tender, the sweet, the rose-coloured tone; the short-lived love, the deserted-lover tones; the rosemary, the golden lupine, the rainbow, the nightingale modes; the English tin, the stick-cinnamon modes; the fresh orange, green linden-blossom modes; the frogs', the calves', the goldfinch modes; the mode--save the mark!--of the secret gormandiser; the lark, the snail tones; the barking tone; the balsam, the marjoram modes; the tawny lion-fell, the faithful pelican modes; the respendent gold-galloon mode! Walther cries out to Heaven for help. "Those,"

proceeds David, "are only the names! Now learn to sing them exactly as the masters have established, every word and tone sounding clearly, the voice rising and falling as it should...." etc., etc., etc.; "but if, when you have done all these things correctly, you should make a mistake, or in any wise stumble and flounder, whatever your success up to that moment, you would have failed in the song-trial!

In spite of great diligence and application, myself I have not brought it to that point. Let me be an example to you, and drop this folly of seeking to be made a master!"

Walther, persisting in inquiry, conquers the information at last that in order to be named a master a man must compose an original poem and fit it to an original air, in accordance with the many laws laid down by his judges. "All there is for me to do then,"

concludes the lover, nothing discouraged, "is to aim directly at masters.h.i.+p. If I am to sing successfully, I must find, to verses of my own, a melody of my own!" David, who has joined the apprentices, fends off their teasing by privately preparing them for rich diversion presently at the song-trial. "Not I to-day, another fellow is up for trial! He has not been a 'pupil' and is not a 'singer'; the formality of earning the t.i.tle of 'poet' he says he will omit; for he is a gentleman of quality, and expects, with one leap and no further difficulty, this very day to become a master. Wherefore arrange carefully the Marker's cabinet; the blackboard on the wall, convenient to the Marker's hand.... The Marker, yes!" he repeats bodingly to the not sufficiently impressed knight. "Are you not afraid? Many a candidate already, singing before him, has met with failure. He allows you seven errors; he marks them there with chalk; whoever makes more than seven errors has completely and conclusively failed!" The apprentices in their glee over the prospective entertainment join hands and dance in a ring around the curtained recess where the Marker shortly shall be chronicling the slips and blunders of this self-confident lordling.

Their play is interrupted, and they hurriedly put on good behaviour, at the entrance of two of the masters, Pogner and Sixtus Beckmesser, the town-clerk. The change in the music is definite as a change of air and scene, is like pa.s.sing from the hubbub of the street into some calm and pleasant precinct. Beckmesser is importuning Pogner with regard to his intentions for the morrow. Beckmesser wishes extremely to become his son-in-law, wherefore he thinks it would be best to give the young lady no choice, to decree simply and finally that the winner of the prize for song should be her husband. He feels c.o.c.ksure of his superiority as a master-singer, but dubious, it would seem, of his power to enthrall the fancy of a young girl. "If Evchen's voice can strike out the candidate, of what use to me is my supremacy as a master?"--"Come," replies Pogner sensibly, "if you have no hopes of the daughter's regard, how do you come to enter the lists as her suitor?" Beckmesser, after this check, cannot, of course, urge anything further in the same direction. He begs for Pogner's influence with his child, and turns away disgusted with the goldsmith's merely civil a.s.sent.

It seems to him that a man like Pogner ought to know as well as he knows that women have no real taste, that they are capable of preferring the sorriest stuff to all the poetry in the world. How shall he, Beckmesser, avoid a disappointment, a public defeat? He decides upon reflection to try the prize-song he has prepared, as a serenade, and make sure beforehand that the maiden will be pleased with it.

Walther has approached and exchanged greetings with Pogner. He comes directly to the point, and, with airy aplomb, "If truth must be told," he says, "the thing which drove me from home and brought me to Nuremberg was the love of Art, nothing else! I forgot to tell you this yesterday--but to-day I proclaim it aloud. It is my desire to become a master-singer. Receive me, master, in the guild!"

The masters are flocking in, bakers, tailors, coppersmiths, grocers, weavers. Pogner turns to them, delighted. "Hear, what a very interesting case. The knight here, my friend, is desirous of dedicating himself to our Art. It seems like the olden days come back!--You can hardly think," to Walther, "how glad I am! As willingly indeed as ever I lent you my a.s.sistance to sell your land, I will receive you in the guild!"--"What man is that?" Beckmesser almost barks, catching sight of Walther. Suspiciously he observes him: "I do not like him.... What is he doing here? How his eyes beam with laughter!...

Look sharp, Sixtus, keep an eye on that fellow!"

"And may I hope," asks Walther of Pogner, "to have this very day an opportunity to undergo trial and be elected master?"--"Oho!"

soliloquises Beckmesser, with a shock of surprise at audacity such as this, "on that head stands no skittle!" There is no moss growing on him! Pogner is no doubt surprised too, but answers kindly: "The matter must be conducted according to rule. To-day, however, as it happens, is song-trial. I will propose you. The masters lend a favourable ear to requests of mine."

The masters are a.s.sembled; last of all has entered Hans Sachs, the shoe-maker,--dear, benignantly-gazing Hans Sachs. "Are we all here?"

asks one of the members. "Sachs is here! What more is necessary?"

sneers Beckmesser.

Fritz Kothner, the baker, in the capacity of speaker, calls the roll. As the meeting is about to pa.s.s to the business of the day, Pogner asks for the floor, and unfolds before the a.s.sembled guild his romantic scheme: The following is Saint John's day, when it is customary for the master-singers to hold a song-contest out in the open, among the people, the victorious singer receiving a prize. "Now I, by G.o.d's grace, am a rich man, and every one should give according to his means. I cast about therefore for a gift to give not unworthy of me. Hear what I determined upon. In my extensive travels over Germany, I have often been chagrined to find that the burgher is held cheap, is thought close-fisted and mean-minded. Among high and low alike, I heard the bitter reproach, till I was soul-sick of it,--that the burgher has no aim or object above commerce and the getting of money. That we alone in the whole kingdom of Germany are the guardians and preservers of art, they take into no account. To what point we place our honour in that, with what a lofty spirit we cherish the good and beautiful, how highly we prize art and its influence, I wished therefore to show the world. So hear, Masters, the gift which I have appointed for prize: To the singer who in the song-contest shall before all the people win the prize on Saint John's day, let him be who he may, I give, devotee of art that I am, Veit Pogner of Nuremberg, with my whole inheritance, even as it stands, Eva, my only child, in marriage!"

Loud applause. "There is a man for you!... There is talk of the right sort!... There one sees what a Nuremberger is capable of!...

Who would not wish to be a bachelor?..." "I dare say that some,"

suggests Sachs, "would not mind giving away their wives!"

But there is a postscript to Pogner's address which qualifies the aspect of the whole: The maiden shall have the right to reject the masters' choice. That is what has from the first bothered Beckmesser, in Pogner's counsel before this making public of his idea. The general mood is changed by this revelation. "Does it strike you as judicious?" Beckmesser privately consults Kothner; "Dangerous I call it!"--"Do I understand aright," asks Kothner; "that we are placed in the hands of the young lady? If the master-singers' verdict then does not agree with hers, how is it to operate?"--"Let the young lady choose at once according to the inclination of her heart, and leave master-singing out of the game!"

remarks Beckmesser tartly. "Not at all! Not at all!" Pogner strives to calm them, "Not in the very least! You have imperfectly understood.

The maiden may refuse the one to whom you master-singers award the prize, but she may not choose another. A master-singer he must be. Only one crowned by yourselves may become a suitor for her."

The arrangement does seem, closely considered, rather hard on the young lady, and one fancies more than once, in the course of the play, a shade of sheepishness in the father's own att.i.tude toward it,--momentary ripples of misgiving.

A voice of beautiful, calm, corrective sanity is now raised in the a.s.sembly. "Your pardon!" speaks Sachs to Pogner, "you have perhaps already gone somewhat far. The heart of a young girl and the heart aglow for master-art do not always burn with an identical flame. Feminine judgment, untutored as it is, would seem to me on a level with popular judgment. If therefore you have in mind to show the people how highly you honour art, and if, leaving to your daughter the right of choice, you wish her not to repudiate the verdict, let the people be among the judges, for the people's taste is sure to coincide with the girl's."

Indignation upon this among the masters. "The people?... That were fine! As well say good-bye, once for all, to art!... Sachs, what you say is nonsense.... Are the rules of art to be set aside for the people?"--"Understand me aright!" Sachs meets them; "How you take on! You will own that I know the rules thoroughly. For many a year I have been at pains to keep the guild to a strict observation of them. But once a year it would seem to me wise to test the rules themselves, and see whether in the easy grooves of habit their strength and vitality have not been lost. And whether you are still upon the right track of nature you can only find out from such as know nothing of tabulated rules!" (The apprentices, who here represent the people, and have no great love for the _Tabulatur_, give evidence of joy.) "Wherefore it would seem to me expedient that yearly, at Saint John's feast, instead of permitting the people to come to you, you should descend out of your lofty masters.h.i.+p-cloud, and yourselves go to the people. You wish to please the people. It would strike me as to the point to let the people tell you itself whether you succeed in pleasing it. You would thus secure a vital advantage, both for the people and for art. There you have Hans Sachs's opinion!"

No one agrees with him, of course. "You no doubt mean well, but it would be a mistake.... If the people is to have a voice, I, for one, shall keep my mouth shut.... If art is to run after the favour of the people, it cannot fail to come to grief and contempt."--"His success would be enormous, no doubt, who urges this matter so stiffly," Beckmesser puts in spitefully; "His compositions are nearly all popular street-songs!"

Pogner sets Sachs's suggestion aside with perfect civility and good humour. "The thing I am about to do is novel already. Too much novelty at one time might bring in its wake regret...."--"Sufficient to me,"

Sachs yields the point, "is the maiden's right of refusal!"--"That cobbler always excites my wrath!" mutters Beckmesser.

They pa.s.s to the order of the day. "Who enters the lists as a candidate?

A bachelor he must be."--"Or perhaps a widower?" offers Beckmesser; "Ask Sachs!"--"Oh, no, master Beckmesser," Sachs retorts; "Of younger wax than either you or I must the suitor be, if Evchen is to bestow the prize on him!"--"Younger than I, too?... Coa.r.s.e fellow!"

At the question whether any be on the spot who wish to take the song-trial, Pogner presents Walther von Stolzing, as one desirous of being that same day elected master-singer. The motif of Wather's presentation gives a clear idea of the knight's charming appearance, his grace, his elastic step, his hat and feathers, the delicate haughtiness of his bearing, in keeping with his proud name.

A black suspicion enters Beckmesser's breast at sight of him: he is the card which Pogner has all along had up his sleeve. The town-clerk declares promptly that it is too late now to enter the new-comer. The masters exchange glances: "An.o.ble?... Is it a case for rejoicing?

Or is there danger in it?... The fact that Master Pogner speaks for him has its weight, certainly..."--"If he is to be welcomed among us," says Kothner, somewhat forbiddingly, "he must show proper recommendations."--"Do not mistake me," Pogner hastens to say; "Though I wish him good fortune, I have no thought of waiving any rule. Put to him, gentlemen, the customary questions." At the very first question, however, whether he be free and honourably born, Pogner hurriedly prevents Walther's answer by his own, making himself voucher for him in every respect such as that. The generous Sachs, feeling the something grudging in the att.i.tude of the masters, reminds them that it had long been one of the rules made by themselves that an applicant being a lord or a peasant should have no significance, that inquiry concerning art alone should be made of one desiring to become a master-singer. Kothner pa.s.ses thereupon to the question: "Of what master are you a disciple?" And then is born into the world a new, a ravis.h.i.+ng melody--which has all the delight in it that can be compressed into the s.p.a.ce. Airily, confidently, debonairly, Walther delivers himself, in the sweet ingenuousness of his heart, "new," as he had said, ignorant as yet of the jealous world's ways: "Beside my quiet hearth in winter-time, when castle and court were buried in snow, in an ancient book, bequeathed to me by my fathers, I was wont to read recorded the engaging beauties of past Springs, as well as, prophesied, the beauties of the Spring soon to reawaken.

The poet, Walther von der Vogelweid, he it is who has been my master!"

Sachs has listened with a surprised, charmed sympathy. He nods beamingly: "A good master!"--"But long dead!" snaps Beckmesser; "How could he learn the canons from him?"

Kothner proceeds without comment to the next question: "In what school did you learn to sing?"--"Then when the sward was free from frost, and summer-time was come back, all that in the long winter-evenings I had read in the old book was proclaimed aloud in the luxuriance of the forest. I caught the clear sound of it there. In the forest where the birds congregate, I learned likewise to sing!"--"Ho, ho, from finches and tomt.i.ts you acquired the art of master-singing?" Beckmesser jeers; "Your song no doubt smacks of its teachers!"--"What do you think, masters," inquires Kothner, upon this hopeless revelation, "shall I proceed with the questions?

It strikes me his lords.h.i.+p's answers are altogether wide of the mark."--"That is what will presently be seen," Sachs interposes warmly; "If his art is of the right sort, and he duly proves it, of what consequence is it from whom he learned it?" Whereupon Kothner proceeds, addressing Walther: "Are you prepared, now, at once, to attempt an original master-song, new in conception, original both in text and tune?" Walther answers unhesitatingly: "All that winter-night and forest-splendour, that book and grove have taught me; all that the magic of poetry has secretly revealed to me; all that I have gathered, a thoughtful listener, from ride to battle or from dance in gay a.s.sembly,--all this, in the present hour, when the highest prize of life may be purchased by a song, is what must necessarily flow into my song, original in word and note,--is what must be outpoured before you, masters, if I succeed, as a master-song!"

"Did you gather anything from that torrent of words?" Beckmesser asks, with his eyebrows up among his hair, of his fellow-masters.

"Now, masters, if you please," Kothner directs, "let the Marker take his seat. Does his lords.h.i.+p," to Walther, "choose a sacred subject?" "One that is sacred to me!" the young man answers magnificently; "The banner of Love I swing and I sing--and cherish good hope!" "That," considers Kothner, without a gleam, "comes under the head of secular subject. And now, Master Beckmesser, pray shut yourself in!" With a thin pose of reluctance, Beckmesser takes his way toward the curtained cabinet. "A sour office--and to-day especially. The chalk, I surmise, will be troublesomely in requisition. Know, Sir Knight, Sixtus Beckmesser is the Marker.

Here in the cabinet he attends to his stern duty. He allows you seven errors. He marks them down in there with chalk. If you make over seven errors, Sir Knight, you have failed in the song-trial.

Keen is the Marker's ear; that the sight of him therefore may not disconcert you, he relieves you of his presence and considerately shuts himself up in there--G.o.d have you in his keeping!" He has climbed upon the platform; he sharply draws the curtains.

Two apprentices take down from the wall and bring forward the _Leges Tabulaturoe_. With pomp and flourish Kothner reads them off to Walther.

The Wagnerian Romances Part 11

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The Wagnerian Romances Part 11 summary

You're reading The Wagnerian Romances Part 11. This novel has been translated by Updating. Author: Gertrude Hall Brownell already has 479 views.

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