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   Chapter 5 THE SECOND MEETING OF THE CLUB.

ZigZag Journeys in Northern Lands; By Hezekiah Butterworth Characters: 26085

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


Constance.-The Story of Huss.-Bismarck and the German Government.-The Story of the Heart of Stone.-Poem.-Seven Nights on the Rhine: Night First.

HE second meeting of the Club was opened by Mr. Beal with an account of Constance, and of the great Council that convened there in 1414.

"Via Mala! So the old Romans called the road near the source of the Rhine. It passed over and through dark and awful chasms, that the river, as it came down from the Alps, had been tunnelling for thousands of years.

"The Rhine is the gift of the Alps, as Egypt is the gift of the Nile. From its source amid the peaks of the clouds to its first great reservoir, the Lake of Constance, it passes through one of the wildest and most picturesque regions in the world. It is not strange that the Romans should have called their old Swiss road Via Mala.

"Lake Constance! How our heads bent and our feelings kindled and glowed when we beheld it! It is the most beautiful lake that Germany possesses. It is walled by snow-capped mountains, whose tops seem like islands in the blue lakes of the skies. Quaint towns are nestled among the groves of the shore; towers, with bells ringing soft and melodious in the still air. The water is like emerald. Afar, zigzagging sails flap mechanically in the almost pulseless air.

"There is color everywhere, of all hues: high, rich tones of color; low tones. Piles of gems on the mountains, gloomy shadows in the groves; a deep cerulean sky above, that the sunlight fills like a golden sea. At sunset the lake seems indeed like the vision that John saw,-'a sea of glass, mingled with fire.'

BRIDGE IN THE VIA MALA.

"The town of Constance, once a great city, is as old as the period of Constantine. When Charlemagne went to Rome to receive the imperial crown, he rested here. Here a long line of German kings left the associations of great festivities; here those kings passed their Christmases and Easters. Here convened brilliant regal assemblies. Here the ambassadors from Milan appeared before Barbarossa, and delivered to him the golden key of the Italian states.

"But these events are of comparatively small importance in comparison with the so-called Holy Council of Constance, in 1414. It was a time of spiritual dearth in the world. Arrogance governed the Church, and immorality flourished in it. There were three popes, each at war with the others,-John XXIII., Benedict XII., and Gregory XII.

"The Council was called to choose a pope, and to reform the Church. The town for four years became the centre of European history. Hither came kings and princes; the court of the world was here.

"The town filled, and filled. It was like a great fair. Delegates came from the North and the South, the East and the West. There were splendid fêtes; luxury and vainglory. At one time there were present a hundred thousand men.

"The Council accomplished nothing by way of reform, except to induce the three rival popes to relinquish their claims to a fourth; but it stained its outward glory with a crime that will never be forgotten.

"When we were in Florence,-beautiful Florence!-the tragedy of Savonarola rose before us like a spectre in the history of the past. Savonarola tried to reform the conduct of the clergy and to maintain the purity of the Church, but failed. He made the republic of Florence a model Christian commonwealth. Debauchery was suppressed, gambling was prohibited, the licentious factions of the times were there publicly destroyed. He arraigned Rome for her sins. The Roman party turned against him and accused him of heresy, the punishment of which was death. He declared his innocence, and desired to test it with his accusers by walking through a field of living fire. He believed God would protect him from the flames, like the worthies of old. His enemies were unwilling to go with him into the fiery ordeal. He was condemned and executed. The martyr of Florence in after years became one of its saints.

"At Constance a like tragedy haunted us. Constance has been called 'the city of Huss.'

"Among the mighty ones who wended their way to the city of the lake, to attend the great Council, was a pale, thin man, in mean attire. He had been invited to the Council by the Emperor Sigismund, who promised to protect his person and his life. He was a Bohemian reformer; a follower of Wycliffe. He was graciously received, but was soon after thrown into prison on the charge of heresy.

"They led him in chains before the Council, which assembled in an old hall, which is still shown. The emperor sat upon the throne as president.

"He confessed to having read and disseminated the writings of Wycliffe.

JOHN HUSS.

"He was required to denounce the English reformer as one of the souls of the lost.

"'If he be lost, then I could wish my soul were with his,' he said firmly.

"This was pronounced to be heresy.

"The emperor declared that he was not obliged to keep his word to heretics, and that his promise to protect the life of the Bohemian was no longer binding.

"He was condemned to death. He was stripped of his priestly robes, and the cup of the sacrament was taken from his hands with a curse.

"'I trust I shall drink of it this day in the kingdom of heaven,' he said.

"'We devote thy soul to the devils in hell,' was the answer of the prelates.

"He was led away, guarded by eight hundred horsemen, to a meadow without the gates. Here he was burned alive, and triumphed in soul amid the flames.

"Such was the end of John Huss, the Savonarola of Constance.

"We made an excursion upon the lake. The appearance of the old city from the water is one of the most beautiful that can meet the eye. It seems more like an artist's dream than a reality,-floating towers in a crystal atmosphere.

"'Girt round with rugged mountains,

The fair Lake Constance lies.'

"The lake is walled with mountains, and wears a chain of castle-like towns, like a necklace.

"It would be delightful to spend a summer there. Excursions on the steamers can be made at almost any time of the day. One can visit in this way five different old countries,-Baden, Würtemberg, Bavaria, Austria, and Switzerland."

Mr. Beal's succinct account of the old city led to a discussion of the gains of civilization from martyrdoms for principle and progress. He was followed by Master Lewis, who gave the Class some account of

BISMARCK AND THE GERMAN GOVERNMENT.

In the eyes of the multitude, Bismarck is a great but unscrupulous statesman, intent upon uniting Germany and making it the leading nation of Europe. As a man, he seems hard-headed, self-willed, and iron-handed. As a ruler, he is looked upon as the incarnation of the despotic spirit,-a believer in force, an infidel as to moral suasion.

Many persons who sympathize with his policy censure the means by which he executes it. They do not consider that so long as that policy is threatened from within and without, the Chancellor must trust in force; nor do they read the lesson of the centuries,-Force must rule until Right reigns.

The fact is not apprehended by the unthinking multitude, that the work of grafting a statesman's policy into the life of a nation requires, like grafting a fruit-tree, excision, incision, pressure, and time.

But it is not of Bismarck's policy I would first speak, but of that which few credit him with possessing,-his moral convictions. Strange as it may seem to those who know only the Chancellor, Bismarck is not only a religious man, but his religion is the foundation of his policy.

Dr. Busch, one of the statesman's secretaries, in a recent book, "Bismarck in the Franco-German War," narrates incidents and reports private conversations which justify this assertion.

On the eve of his leaving Berlin to join the army, the Chancellor partook of the Lord's Supper. The solemn rite was celebrated in his own room, that it might not appear as an exhibition of official piety.

BISMARCK.

One morning Bismarck was called suddenly from his bed to see a French general. Dr. Busch, on entering the bedroom just after the chief had left it, found everything in disorder. On the floor was a book of devotion, "Daily Watchwords and Texts of the Moravian Brethren for 1870." On the table by the bed was another, "Daily Refreshment for Believing Christians."

"The Chancellor reads in them every night," said Bismarck's valet to Dr. Busch, seeing his surprise.

One day, while dining with his staff, several of whom were "free-thinkers," Bismarck turned the conversation into a serious vein. A secretary had spoken of the feeling of duty which pervaded the German army, from the private to the general.

Bismarck caught the idea and tossed it still higher. "The feeling of duty," he said, "in a man who submits to be shot dead on his post, alone, in the dark, is due to what is left of belief in our people. He knows that there is Some One who sees him when the lieutenant does not see him."

"Do you believe, Your Excellency," asked a secretary, "that they really reflect on this?"

"Reflect? no: it is a feeling, a tone, an instinct. If they reflect they lose it. Then they talk themselves out of it.

"How," Bismarck continued, "without faith in a revealed religion, in a God who wills what is good, in a Supreme Judge, and in a future life, men can live together harmoniously, each doing his duty and letting every one else do his, I do not understand."

There was a pause in the conversation, and the Chancellor then gave expression to his faith.

"If I were no longer a Christian," he said, "I would not remain for an hour at my post. If I could not count upon my God, assuredly I should not do so on earthly masters.

"Why should I," he continued, "disturb myself and work unceasingly in this world, exposing myself to all sorts of vexations, if I had not the feeling that I must do my duty for God's sake? If I did not believe in a Divine order, which has destined this German nation for something good and great, I would at once give up the business of a diplomatist. Orders and titles have no charm for me."

There was another pause, for the staff were silent before this revelation of their chief's inner life. He continued to lay bare the foundations of his statesmanship.

"I owe the firmness which I have shown for ten years against all possible absurdities only to my decided faith. Take from me this faith, and you take from me my fatherland. If I were not a believing Christian, if I had not the supernatural basis of religion, you would not have had such a Chancellor.

"I delight in country life, in the woods, and in nature," he said, in the course of the conversation. "Take from me my relation to God, and I am the man who will pack up to-morrow and be off to Varzin [his farm] to grow my oats."

The surprise with which these revelations of a statesman's inner life are read is due to their singularity. Neither history nor biography is so full of instances of statesmen confessing their faith in God and in Christianity, at a dinner-table surrounded by "free-thinkers," as to prevent the reading of these revelations from being both interesting and stimulating.

"I live among heathen," said the Chancellor, as he concluded this acknowledgment that his religion was the basis of his statesmanship. "I don't seek to make proselytes, but I am obliged to confess my faith."

Prince von Bismarck was born in 1813. His political history is similar to Emperor William's, which I related at our last meeting. The Emperor and his Chancellor, in matters of state, have been as one man. Each has aimed to secure the unity of the German empire. Each has sought to disarm, on the one hand, that branch of the Catholic party who give their allegiance to Rome rather than the government, the so-called Ultramontanes; and the Socialists, on the other hand, who would overthrow the monarchy. The two strong men have ruled with a firm hand, but with much wisdom. Germany could hardly have a more liberal government, unless she became a republic.

The stories of the evening were chiefly selected from Hoffman. They were too long and terrible to be given here. Among them were "The Painter" and "The Elementary Spirit." In introducing these stories, Mr. Beal related some touching and strange incidents of their author.

HOFFMAN.

Hoffman died in Berlin. His career as a musical artist had been associated with the Prussian-Polish provinces, where he seems to have acquired habits of dissipation in brilliant but gay musical society.

Hoffman had exquisite refinement of taste, and sensitiveness to the beautiful in nature and art, but the exhilaration of the wine-cup was to him a fatal knowledge. It made him in the end a poor, despised, inferior man.

As he lost his self-mastery, he also seemed to lose his self-respect. He mingled with the depraved, and carried the consciousness of his inferiority into all his associations with better society.

"I once saw Hoffman," says one, "in one of h

is night carouses. He was sitting in his glory at the head of the table, not stupidly drunk, but warmed with wine, which made him madly eloquent. There, in full tide of witty discourse, or, if silent, his hawk eye flashing beneath his matted hair, sat this unfortunate genius until the day began to dawn; then he found his way homeward.

"At such hours he used to write his wild, fantastic tales. To his excited fancy everything around him had a spectral look. The shadows of fevered thought stalked like ghosts through his soul."

This stimulated life came to a speedy conclusion. He was struck with a most strange paralysis at the age of forty-six.

His disease first paralyzed his hands and feet, then his arms and legs, then his whole body, except his brain and vital organs.

In this condition it was remarked in his presence that death was not the worst of evils. He stared wildly and exclaimed,-

"Life, life, only life,-on any condition whatsoever!"

His whole hope was centred in the gay world which had already become to him as a picture of the past.

But the hour came at last when he knew he must die. He asked his wife to fold his useless hands on his breast, and, looking at her pitifully, he said, "And we must think of God also."

Religion, in his gay years, as a provincial musician, and as a poet in the thoughtless society of the capital, had seldom occupied his thoughts.

His last thought was given to the subject which should have claimed the earliest and best efforts of his life.

"God also!" It was his farewell to the world. The demons had done their work. Life's opportunities were ended.

The words of his afterthought echo after him, and, like his own weird stories, have their lesson.

Herman Reed presented a story from a more careful writer. It is a story with an aim, and left an impressive lesson on the minds of all. If it be somewhat of an allegory, it is one whose meaning it is not hard to comprehend.

THE HEART OF STONE.

The Black Forest, from time out of mind, has abounded with stories of phantoms, demons, genii, and fairies. The dark hue of the hills, the shadowy and mysterious recesses, the lonely ways, the beautiful glens, all tend to suggest the legends that are associated with every mountain, valley, and town. The old legends have filled volumes. One of the most popular of recent stories of the Black Forest is the "Marble Heart; or, the Stone-cold Heart," by Hauff.

Wilhelm Hauff, a writer of wonderful precocity, genius, and invention, was born at Stuttgart in 1809. He was designed for the theological profession, and entered the University of Tübingen in 1820. He had a taste for popular legends, and published many allegorical works. He died before he had completed his twenty-sixth year.

There once lived a widow in the Black Forest, whose name was Frau Barbara Munk. She had a boy, sixteen years old, named Peter, who was put to the trade of charcoal-burner, a common occupation in the Black Forest.

Now a charcoal-burner has much time for reflection; and as Peter sat at his stack, with the dark trees around him, he began to cherish a longing to become rich and powerful.

"A black, lonely charcoal-burner," he said to himself, "leads a wretched life. How much more respected are the glass-blowers, the clock-makers, and the musicians!"

The raftsmen of the forest, too, excited his envy. They passed like giants through the towns, with their silver buckles, consequential looks, and clay pipes, often a yard long. There were three of these timber-dealers that he particularly admired. One of them, called "Fat Hesekiel," seemed like a mint of gold, so freely did he use his money at the gaming-tables at the tavern. The second, called "Stout Schlurker," was both rich and dictatorial; and the third was a famous dancer.

These traders were from Holland. Peter Munk, the young coal-burner, used to think of them and their good fortune, when sitting alone in the pine forests. The Black Foresters were people rich in generous character and right principle, but very poor in purse. Peter began to look upon them and their homely occupations with contempt.

"This will do no longer," said Peter, one day. "I must thrive or die. Oh, that I were as much regarded as rich Hesekiel or powerful Schlurker, or even as the King of the Dancers! I wonder where they obtain their money!"

There were two Forest spirits, of whom Peter had heard, that were said to help those who sought them to riches and honor. One was Glassmanikin, a good little dwarf; and the other was Michael the Dutchman,-dark, dangerous, terrible, and powerful,-a giant ghost.

Peter had heard that there was a magic verse, which, were he to repeat it alone in the forest, would cause the benevolent dwarf, Glassmanikin, to appear. Three of the lines were well known,-

"O treasure-guarder, 'mid the forests green,

Many, full many a century hast thou seen:

Thine are the lands where rise the dusky pine-"

He did not know the last line, and, as he was but a poor poet, he was unable to make a line to fill the sense, metre, and rhyme.

He inquired of the Black Foresters about the missing line, but they only knew as much as he, else many of them would have called the fairy banker to their own service.

One day, as he was alone in the forest, he resolved to repeat, over and over, the magic lines, hoping that the fourth line would in some way occur to him.

"O treasure-guarder, 'mid the forests green,

Many, full many a century hast thou seen:

Thine are the regions of the dusky pine."

As he said these words he saw, to his astonishment, a little fellow peep around the trunk of a tree; but, as the fourth line did not come to him, Mr. Glassmanikin disappeared.

Peter went home, with his mind full of visions. Oh, that he were a poet! He consulted the oldest wood-cutters, but none of them could supply the missing line.

Soon after, Peter again went into the deep forest, his brain aching for a rhyme with pine. As he was hurrying along, a gigantic man, with a pole as big as a mast over his shoulder, appeared from behind the pine-trees. Peter was filled with terror, for he felt that it was none other than the giant-gnome, Michael the Dutchman.

"Peter Munk, what doest thou here?" he thundered.

"I want to pass this road on business," said Peter, in increasing alarm.

"Thou liest. Peter, you are a miserable wight, but I pity you. You want money. Accept my conditions, and I will help you. How many hundred thalers do you want?"

"Thanks, sir; but I'll have no dealings with you: I am afraid of your conditions. I have heard of you already."

Peter began to run.

The giant strode after him; but there was a magic circle in the forest that he could not pass, and, as he was near it, Peter was able to escape.

A great secret had been revealed to Peter, and he now thought he had the clew to the charm. The good dwarf, Glassmanikin, only helped people who were born on Sunday.

Possessed of this fact, Peter again ventured on into the deep forest. He found himself at last under a huge pine. He stopped there to rest, when suddenly a perfect line and rhyme occurred to him. He leaped into the air with joy, and exclaimed:-

"O treasure-guarder, 'mid the forests green,

Many, full many a century hast thou seen:

Thine are the regions of the dusky pine,

And children born on Sabbath-days are thine."

A little old manikin arose from the earth at the foot of the pine. He wore a black jerkin, red stockings, and a peaked hat. His face had a kindly expression, and he sat down and began to smoke a blue glass pipe.

"Peter, Peter," said the fairy, "I should be sorry to think that the love of idleness has brought you hither to me."

"No; I know that with idleness vice begins. But I would like a better trade. It is a low thing to be a charcoal-burner. I would like to become a glass-blower."

"To every Sunday-child who seeks my aid, I grant three wishes. If, however, the last wish is a foolish one, I cannot grant it. Peter, Peter, what are your wishes? Let them be good and useful."

"I wish to dance better than the King of Dancers."

"One."

"Secondly, I would always have as much money in my pocket as 'Fat Hesekiel.'"

"Oh, you poor lad!" said the gnome sadly. "What despicable things to wish for! To dance well, and have money to gamble! What is your third wish?"

"I should like to own the finest glass factory in the forest."

"O stupid Charcoal Peter! you should have wished for wisdom. Wealth is useless without wisdom to use it. Here are two thousand guldens. Go."

Peter returned home. At the frolics at the inn, he surpassed the King of Dancers in dancing, and he was hailed with great admiration by the young. He began to gamble at the ale-houses, and was able to produce as much money as Fat Hesekiel himself. People wondered. He next ordered a glass factory to be built, and in a few months Peter Munk was rich and famous and envied. People said he had found a hidden treasure.

But Peter did not know how to use his money. He spent it at the alehouse; and at last, when the money in the pockets of Fat Hesekiel, for some reason, was low, he was unable to pay his debts, and the bailiffs came to take him to prison.

PETER AND THE MANIKIN.

In his troubles he resolved to go again into the deep forest, and seek the aid of the forest gnomes.

"If the good little gnome will not help me," he said, "the big one will."

As he passed along, ashamed of his conduct in not having better deserved of the good fairy, he began to cry,-

"Michael the Dutchman! Michael the Dutchman!"

In a few moments the giant raftsman stood before him.

"You've come to me at last," he said. "Go with me to my house, and I will show you how I can be of service to you."

Peter followed the giant to some steep rocks, and down into an abyss; there was the gnome's palace.

"Your difficulties come from here," said the gnome, placing his hands over the young man's heart. "Let me have your heart, and you shall have riches."

"Give you my heart?" said Peter; "I should die."

"No; follow me."

He led Peter into a great closet, where were jars filled with liquid. In them were the hearts of many who had become rich. Among them were the hearts of the King of the Dancers and of Fat Hesekiel.

"The hinderance to wealth is feeling. I have taken, as you see, the hearts of these rich men. I have replaced them by hearts of stone. You see how they flourish. You may do the same."

PETER SURPASSED THE KING OF DANCERS.

"A heart of stone must feel very cold within," said Peter.

"But what is the use of a heart of feeling, with poverty? Give me your heart, and I will make you rich."

"Agreed," said Peter.

The giant gave him a drug, which caused stupor. When Peter awoke from the stupor his heart seemed cold. He put his hand on his breast: there was no motion. Then he knew that he had indeed a heart of stone.

Nothing now brought him pleasure or delight. He loved nothing; pitied no one's misfortunes. Beauty was nothing. He cared not for relatives or friends; but he had money, money. The supply never failed.

He travelled over the world, but everything seemed dead to him. Sentiment was dead within him. He lied, he cheated. He filled many homes with wretchedness and ruin.

At last he became weary of life.

PETER AND THE GIANT.

"I would give all my riches," he said, "to feel once again love in my heart."

He resolved to go into the woods and consult the good fairy.

He came to the old pine-tree,-

"O treasure-guarder, 'mid the forests green,

Many, full many a century thou hast seen;

Thine are the regions of the dusky pine,

And children born on Sabbath-days are thine."

The Glassmanikin came up again, as before. He met Peter with an injured look.

"What wouldst thou?"

"That thou shouldst give me a feeling heart."

"I cannot. I am not Michael the Dutchman."

"I can live no longer with this stone heart."

"I pity you. Take this cross, and go to Michael. Get him to give you back your heart, under some pretext, and when he demands it again show him this cross, and he will be powerless to harm you."

Peter took the cross and hurried into the deep forest. He called,-

"Michael the Dutchman! Michael the Dutchman!"

The giant appeared.

"What now, Peter Munk?"

"There is feeling in my heart. Give me another. You have been deceiving me."

"Come to my closet, and we will see."

The gnome took out the stone heart, and replaced it for a moment by the old heart from the jar. It began to beat. Peter felt joy again. How happy he was! A heart, even with poverty, seemed the greatest of blessings. He would not exchange his heart again for the world.

"Let me have it now," said the gnome.

But Peter held out the cross. The gnome shrank away, faded, and disappeared.

Peter put his hand on his breast. His heart was beating. He became a wise, thrifty, and prosperous man.

* * *

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