Anna Alice Chapin.

Wonder tales from Wagner, told for young people online

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form, with benches and seats upon it, was ready for
the masters. Under gayly colored tents people
were partaking of refreshments of all sorts.

Companies composed of members of different
trades soon arrived the cobblers, the tailors, the
bakers, the watchmen, the lute-makers, the journey-
men, and all the busy workpeople of Nuremberg.
Trumpets and horns sounded, and loud sounds of
gayety rilled the air.

The 'prentices, dressed in extravagantly gaudy
costumes trimmed with ribbons, rushed about, act-
ing as ushers and ordering the tradespeople around.
They all ran to the water's edge as a boat hung

The Singing of the Master song 183

with bright flags arrived at the landing, filled with
young peasant girls in festival dresses.

" Maidens from Fiirth ! Maidens from Fiirth !"
cried the 'prentices. " Town-piper, play !"

They helped the girls out of the boat and began
to dance about with them, eluding the journeymen,
who would have liked to have danced themselves.

David arrived at this point, and looked disap-
provingly on the merrymaking.

" Dancing, are you !" he commented, disgustedly.
" What would the masters say?"

The 'prentices did not answer, and only made
faces at him. At this David cried, " I might as well
have a good time, too !" and seizing the hands of
a pretty peasant girl standing near, joined in the
dance with much fervor. After a time the 'pren-
tices shouted, ''The Mastersingers! The Mastersing-
ers !" and the dance came to a hasty end.

The 'prentices formed a line, the people parted,
and the Mastersingers, in a slow and stately proces-
sion, made their way to the platform, Kothner pre-
ceeding them, and bearing a banner upon which was
a design representing David the King, with his harp.
The people cheered them loudly, and waved their
hats and scarfs in great excitement. Pogner led
Eva, who was followed by a troop of maidens, to
her place on the platform. The masters seated
themselves on the long benches prepared for them ;

184 The Mastersingers of Nuremberg

the journeymen stood behind, and the apprentices
advanced towards the people, crying, " Silentium !"

Sachs rose from his place, and at sight of him all
the people doffed their hats and caps, pointing and
whispering, and finally broke out into a grand cho-
rus, which they had learned for the occasion, hailing
the nightingale which sang so sweetly in the dawn.

" Hail !" they ended, pointing towards the embar-
rassed cobbler " Hail to Nuremberg's beloved Hans

Sachs answered their tribute in words of humility,
dignity, and gratitude ; and then formally announced
Pogner's gift of his daughter in marriage as the
prize that day.

" Masters," he added " all who to-day compete in
the trial of song think what a prize is here, and be
sure that he who would win such a crown of art has
a heart full of simple love, nobility, and poetry ! So
will the Mastersingers be worthy the honor of Nu-

While the applause which met his speech still con-
tinued, he turned to Beckmesser, who was trying
vainly to learn the song by heart, and accosted him
in low tones, kindly advising him to give up all idea
of singing it. But the town-clerk was determined,
and when Kothner bade all bachelor masters prepare
for the contest, and called on Beckmesser, as the
oldest, to come forward, he took his lute and was

The Singing of the Master song 185

conducted by the 'prentices to a mound of turf which
they had erected and strewn with flowers.

When he insisted that it was too rickety they
laughed under their breath, and hammered the
mound with their spades. The people near Beck-
messer began to joke and whisper together about
his unprepossessing appearance, and, feeling very
hot, nervous, and uncertain of himself, the minstrel
mounted the mound and balanced himself there,
waiting for the signal.

" Now begin !" cried Kothner, and Beckmesser,
having bowed to the masters, the people, and Eva
who turned away in displeasure played a tune-
less prelude on his lute and began to sing.

Not one word of the song which Sachs had given
him could he remember ; even the sense vanished
away in the extreme confusion of his brain ; the
melody was much like that of his unlucky serenade,
and, altogether, so strange a song had never been
heard by either the masters or the people. They
muttered together, stared, laughed, and finally re-
linquished all attempt at comprehension, and lis-
tened to the unmusical and apparently senseless per-
formance to the end.

At the last words, Beckmesser, infuriated by the
loud laughter which met the conclusion of his song,
sprang towards Sachs, flung the paper at his feet
and, shouting that it was Sachs who had written the

1 86 TJie Master singers of Nuremberg

poetry and, consequently, Sachs who must be blamed
for its foolishness, rushed away and disappeared in
the crowd.

Much amazed, the masters asked Sachs to explain
this astounding assertion, and the cobbler answered
that Beckmesser had made a mistake, that he had
not written the song, and indeed could never hope
to compose anything so fine. As the masters were
still incredulous that there could be anything save
nonsense in the composition, Sachs said that Beck-
messer had undoubtedly sung it incorrectly, and
that they would appreciate its beauty if it were
properly rendered and set to a better melody. Any
one who could successfully sing the verses, Sachs
declared, would prove not only that he himself was
their author, but that he was worthy a place among
the masters.

" Will no one come forward ?" he called. " Is
there not one who will prove that I am right? If
so, let him approach !"

Walther emerged from the midst of the crowd,
and advanced towards the platform. As he bowed
courteously to Sachs, the assembled masters, and the
people, every one was pleased, and the masters, ex-
claiming that the cobbler had chosen a clever way
of gaining his ends, consented to hear his witness's
rendering of this remarkable song.

" Sir Walther von Stolzing," said Sachs, impres-


The Singing of the Mastersong 187

sively, " sing this song! You, masters, pay heed to
his errors."

He handed the paper to Kothner, and drew back.
Walther advanced to the mound and sprang upon
it. After a moment's pause he began to sing the
Song of the Dream. Then, as after the first few bars
the master dropped the paper and listened eager-
ly, he let his fancy and his passion have full poet-
ical sway. He no longer followed the words of the
song as he had composed it first ; he sang new and
beautiful thoughts to music such as the masters had
never heard before. As he ended the first stanza,
they whispered their approbation softly to one

" Witness in place, sing on !" called Sachs.

Again Walther sang. As though carried away on
mighty waters, he sang with more and more fervor
until, at the end of the second stanza, the masters
could only whisper their admiration brokenly and

" Witness, well sung !" said Sachs. " Sing on, and
end !"

And with his soul thrilling to his words, Walther
sent all his spirit out into the glorious melody of the
Aftersong. The people, listening, broke into soft
words of wonder, their hushed whispers accompany-
ing the closing bars of this song, which had caused
so strange and marvellous a joy to spring up in the

1 88 The Master singers of Nuremberg

masters' hearts, a joy higher and grander than all
their past pride and pleasure in their art.

For the Mastersong had been sung. Masters and
people cried out, proclaiming the fact, and, as though
in a dream, Eva crowned the victor with a wreath
of laurel and myrtle.

Pogner then came forward with a gold chain and
medallion, bearing the portrait of King David, and
formally admitted the knight to the guild. But
Walther, remembering all his past agony and hu-
miliation, refused to become a master, and every one,
sorely disturbed and perplexed, turned as usual to
Hans Sachs to right the difficulty.

The cobbler went to the young knight's side and
grasped his hand. Then he spoke, kindly and grave-
ly, and Walther, as he listened, forgot his bitterness
and painful memories.

" Do not disparage the masters, but honor their
art. They give you their highest praise ; not be-
cause of your name, your wealth, your high rank, or
your prowess in battle, but because you are a poet,
and have gained fairly the title of master. Think
on these things with gratitude. And how can you
dispraise the art which has bestowed upon you such
a prize as yours ? Honor the German masters ; so
you will banish evil. For while they live and work
though the great Roman Empire should go up in
smoke yet will remain our holy German art !"

The Singing of the Mastersong 189

As his last words were echoed by one and all, Eva
lifted the wreath from Walther's head and placed it
upon that of Sachs ; and Sachs, taking the chain
from Pogner, hung it around the knight's neck, and
thus made him a Mastersinger of Nuremberg. The
cobbler embraced the two, and while Pogner knelt
as though in homage before his friend, Walther and
Eva remained on either side of him, resting against
him in deep love and trust.

Men waved their hats and women their kerchiefs,
the 'prentices danced and clapped their hands in
wild excitement, and then, while the trumpet sound-
ed, there came a loud cry straight from the hearts
of the honest, loving people of Nuremberg: " Hail,
Sachs ! Nuremberg's beloved Sachs!"

The Mastersong

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Online LibraryAnna Alice ChapinWonder tales from Wagner, told for young people → online text (page 10 of 10)