Anna Alice Chapin.

Wonder tales from Wagner, told for young people online

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weaver ; Hans Foltz, the coppersmith ; these were
the Mastersingers of Nuremberg. Every one had
a boy apprenticed to him, to whom he taught the
Art of Song, together with his special branch of
trade. All these good men did their best to be-
come skilled workmen and great Mastersingers, and
all were just and unflinching in their duty all, that
is to say, except Beckmesser, the town -clerk, of
whom no one expected anything save selfishness,
envy, and dishonesty.

One summer, a young Franconian knight, named
Walther von Stolzing, made his appearance in Nurem-
berg, with a letter of introduction to Veit Pogner

Trial by tJie Masters 143

from a friend. The goldsmith welcomed him to his
house, and there the courteous manner, handsome
face, and poetical speech of the new-comer awoke in
the heart of Pogner's daughter, light-hearted Eva,
a feeling entirely new and strange ; for this knight
was very unlike her own grave and good father, or
the cringing, crafty Beckmesser, or even the kind
cobbler who had played with her when she was a
little child and sat on his knee. And the knight felt
his heart thrill as he watched Eva's bright eyes and
arch smiles, and heard her sweet, clear voice echoing
through Pogner's old house.

Eva's life had been contented and free from all
changes or excitement. Owing to a greater degree
of wealth and culture than his neighbors, her father
kept somewhat aloof from the rude burghers, and
she had no companions save him, Hans Sachs, and
her maid, Magdalene (or Lene). So she grew up,
like a bird whose wings beat the air of a small shel-
tered valley, happy in a limitation which it does not
recognize. Though she was gentle at heart, Eva's
childlike love of fun often led her to tease those
about her unmercifully, and a strain of coquetry
gave her numberless airs and graces which neverthe-
less did not hide her real sweetness and tenderness.
Her character was in reality that of a child, though
Veit Pogner, even then, was considering the advis-
ability of finding a husband for her.

144 The Mastersingers of Nuremberg

The good man cared for but one thing more than
his daughter, and that was his art Nuremberg's art
German art the art for which, according to his
views, any man should be glad to give all that he
had. An idea occurred to him, a plan by which he
could help this art and make his daughter happy.
The time was approaching for the great song festi-
val held every year in the meadows near Nurem-
berg. At that time there would be a competition in
singing, and to the master who could best sing the
most correctly composed song would be awarded
the prize this was the custom. Now Veit Pogner
decided to offer Eva's hand in marriage to the win-
ner, the only condition being that she herself should
be satisfied Avith the man. The goldsmith was de-
termined upon one thing she must be the wife of
a mastersinger only none save a follower of art
should wed her.

One morning, after the arrival of Sir Walther von
Stolzing, Eva and Magdalene went to service in
St. Katherine's Church. Walther stationed himself
at a point whence he could watch Eva's bent head,
with its rippling, golden-brown hair falling in two
loose braids and half covered by a small white

It was the morning of St. John's Eve, and the peo-
ple sang a slow, beautiful choral, voices and organ
combining in solemn harmonies :


Trial by the Masters 145

" Unto thee the Saviour came,
To receive baptismal name.
Hope of pardon gave He thus ;
Ere His sacrifice for us.
Came we for sacrament to thee,
Worthier His death were we.
Saint and leader,
Christ's preceder,
Lead us, as we go
Forth on Jordan's flow."

The organ ceased, the service was over, and the
people filed out of the church. Eva and Magdalene,
who were among the last to depart, were stopped
by Walther, who besought Eva to answer him one
question, and thus set his heart at rest. Eva, anx-
ious to talk to the knight without Magdalene's curi-
ous eyes upon her, sent the maid back to her seat
first for a kerchief and then for a scarf-pin which
she had dropped. Meanwhile, Walther had time to
ask her the question her answer to which would
mean so much to him, he declared " Are you be-

When Magdalene returned for the last time the
knight had just besought Eva to reply. Greeting
him with a courtesy, the maid noticed his agitation,
and looked at him with distrust. Seeing that she
did not understand the cause of his perturbation,
Eva said, quickly and gently, making use of the soft


146 T lie Master singers of Nuremberg

German diminutive, " Good Lenchen, he only wishes
to know how can I explain? He asks if I am be-
trothed !"

At this point a young fellow in the garb of an
apprentice entered, and proceeded to draw two cur-
tains, shutting off the part of the church in which
they were standing from the rest of the building.
Lene's rosy face expressed delight, and she called
" David !" in a whisper.

Upon Eva's beseeching her to answer the knight
for her, the maid turned reluctantly from David and
said, with some severity, " Sir Knight, it is very dif-
ficult to reply to your question. Eva Pogner is un-
doubtedly betrothed."

" But the bridegroom is unknown !" declared Eva,

" The bridegroom will be known to-morrow, when
the prize is given to the mastersinger," proceeded

And Eva again interrupted her, softly, " And I,
his bride, will give him his wreath of victory !"

" Mastersinger?" repeated the knight, amazed.

u You are not one?" questioned Eva, with timid

" Is it to be a song trial?" asked Walther.

" Before the judges !" answered Magdalene.

" The prize," he began, vaguely, and with bewilder-
ment, " is won by "

Trial by the Masters 147

" Him whom the masters approve," replied the
maid, with decision.

" The bride, then, will choose "

"You or no one!" cried Eva, forgetting every-
thing except the love in her own heart and the de-
spair and disappointment in the knight's face. And
as Walther, much agitated, turned away and began
to pace the floor as though he could not remain
quiet, Eva flung herself into her maid's arms, almost
in tears.

" How," asked Magdalene, in amazement " how
could you have grown to love him, having known
him for so short a time?"

" I have had his picture before me," said Eva,
blushing. " Is he not like David?"

" David !" almost screamed Lene, staring at her
and thinking of the 'prentice who had drawn the
curtains. "Are you crazy?"

" Like David in the picture, I mean," explained
Eva, smiling at the maid's mistake.

" What ! Do you mean King David, with the
long beard and the harp, the musician on the mas-
ter's banner ?"

" No !" cried Eva. " He conquering Goliath with
a stone ; with sword at side, and sling in hand the
shepherd David ! He who was drawn by Master
Albrecht Diirer."

She clasped her hands gently, a soft light in her

148 The Master singers of Nuremberg

eyes. Her words had started Lene upon a new line
of thought, and she now sighed, pensively, " David !
Ah, David ! What misfortune you have dealt !"

The youth David had disappeared a few moments
before, and now returned, a foot-rule in his girdle,
and in his hand a string with a large piece of chalk
attached to it. " Here I am !" he announced, with
apparent pride. " Who calls me ?"

i( David!" said Lene, pretending to be frightened.
"You have shut us up in here, have you not?"

" Yes," said David, sentimentally, " and I have
shut you up in my heart !"

At this Magdalene seemed much touched. She
had long ago given her heart to the handsome young
apprentice, whose master was a near neighbor of her
own employer. As for David, he was a merry, care-
less fellow, who was very fond of Lene, and also of
the good things with which she surreptitiously pro-
vided him.

" Is there to be a frolic here ?" asked Magdalene.

" Oho ! A frolic ? No ! A very grave thing !"
declared David, with mock solemnity. " I am pre-
paring for the masters!"

" Ah ! Is there to be singing?"

" It is merely a trial. Whoever passes the exam-
ination will be a master."

Magdalene turned excitedly to Eva. " This is
the right place for the knight !" she exclaimed.

Trial by the Masters 149

" Come, Evchen," dropping into the affectionate
speech common between them in spite of the dif-
ference in station, " we must hurry home !" Then
turning to the knight, who had seen that they were
about to depart, and had drawn near to escort them,
she added, "If you would win our Eva's hand, Sir
Knight, the time and place are favorable."

Two 'prentices entered, carrying benches, and
Magdalene saw that the hour was at hand for the
meeting of the guild.

" How shall I begin ? What must I do ?" ex-
claimed poor Walt her, in great discouragement and

" David will tell you," replied Magdalene. " David,
my dear friend, tell the knight all the rules. You
shall have the best of the larder to-morrow if he is
made a master to-day !"

Walther whispered passionately to Eva that he
would see her that evening and tell her the result
of his trial. Then Magdalene hurried her mistress

David, who had been eying the young man with
a wise smile, now came forward, and said, with
some derision: "A master! Oho! you have
courage !"

The 'prentices had moved a great chair with a high
step from the wall to the centre of the floor, and the
knight flung himself into it, and began to think

1 50 The Mastersingers of Nuremberg

drearily of his small chances of gaining entrance to
the guild.

The 'prentices now hastened in and proceeded to
move benches forward in position opposite the high
chair, and to prepare in every way for the meeting.

David fixed his eyes upon the face of the knight,
and cried, loudly, " Now begin!"

Walther asked the meaning of this sudden com-
mand, and David told him that upon that cry, given
by the master appointed marker, he must begin to
sing. On learning that his hearer had never been at
a song trial, that he was neither " school-man" nor
" scholar," and could not say if he were either poet
or singer, David was much disturbed. He talked
with him in some wonder, asking several times, in-
credulously, if he really wished to become a master.
He himself, he explained, had been apprenticed to
Hans Sachs, the shoemaker, and, with great toil, was
learning cobbling and singing at the same time.

He then proceeded to give a few of the rules of
the Mastersingers, and the full list of the " modes '
and " styles " of their songs. At the end of this
recital Walther fairly gasped. " Ah !" said David,
with a smile of superiority, " those are only the
titles. Think of the singing !"

Indeed, the knight did think of the singing ; and
he still thought of it when David, called by the
'prentices, left him, to superintend the hanging of

Trial by the Masters 151

curtains about a small platform upon which stood a
desk, a seat, and a black-board.

" That is for the marker," said David, returning
to his pupil. " During a song trial he marks every
fault, up to seven. After that the singer is de-
clared outdone and outsung, and pronounced inca-
pable of becoming a master."

He stepped back hastily as the door opened and
Veit Pogner and Beckmesser entered, talking to-
ge-ther. Walther withdrew and seated himself upon
one of the farthest benches.

Pogner walked with dignity, Sixtus Beckmesser
with an unsteady, stealthy gait. From the top of
his bald head to his mincing feet Beckmesser was a


creature to be looked upon with dislike and amuse-
ment. He was born to be a clown, his own solem-
nity adding to his ludicrous aspect. He talked with
the goldsmith in regard to his hope of winning Eva's
hand in the grand song festival on the morrow.

Walther, after watching them from afar for a few
moments, advanced and, much to Beckmesser's dis-
gust, greeted Pogner, announcing his intention of
trying to gain entrance to the Guild of Master-
singers. Beckmesser fairly snarled with rage at so
formidable a rival, but was content with his inward
conviction that the knight, at all events, could not


Nachtigall and Voa-elgesancr entering at the mo-

152 The Master singers of Nuremberg

ment, Pogner introduced Walther to them, and then
to the rest of the guild, who soon entered. Before
long all the Mastersingers were assembled, and as
Kothner read forth the names from a list, each an-
swered and seated himself.

Thereupon Pogner announced his offer of his
daughter's hand as a prize for the morrow's contest.
His words were met with applause, and when the
exclamations of approval had grown less loud he
formally presented Sir Walther von Stolzing, a
knight of Franconia "a young man," quoth the
good Pogner, " of whom my friends have spoken
well and write as favorably. He has come to make
our Nuremberg his home, and desires to become a
disciple of that glorious art to which we all are

"Who taught you the art of song?" was the first
question put by Kothner.

And Walther answered, " By the quiet hearth, in
winter, when castles and houses were covered with
snow, I read of the mysteries of spring in an old
book, written long ago by one of my ancestors. Sir
Walther von der Vogelvveide has been my master."

"A good master!" said Hans Sachs, warmly. But
Beckmesser croaked sharply, " Long dead, however.
What could he know of our rules?"

"Then did you learn to sing in any school?"
asked Kothner.

Trial by the Masters 153

" When the fields were free from the frost," an-
swered Walther, dreamily, " what I learned in win-
ter from the book I saw revealed. The spring came
with marvellous, soft music. In the woods I learned
my singing."

The masters were much puzzled at the boldness
of a man who, without instruction in any school, yet
dared to present himself as a candidate for the posi-
tion of Mastersinger. Still, they consented to Hans
Sachs's kindly persuasions, and informed Sir Wal-
ther von Stolzing that he should be given fair trial
in the art of song.

Beckmesser was appointed marker, and, with a
smile which he intended to seem sweet but which
was sinister instead, the town-clerk vanished behind
the curtains.

Kothner read a list of rules, none of which Wal-
ther could understand in the least, and the singer
was then ordered to sit in the high chair and face
the masters. This annoyed him, but he endured it
for Eva's sake.

There was a pause. " The singer is ready," an-
nounced Kothner.

" Now begin !" cried Beckmesser, the marker, from
behind the curtains.

Walther could not tell what inspired him, but he
no longer asked himself what he should sing. Words
and notes flowed swiftly and simply from his heart :

154 The Mastersingers of Nuremberg

" Now begin !

So calls the spring through the trees,
And wakens harmonies ;
From forests tones are welling,

And thence float far and clear,
Then comes a mighty swelling

Of melody drawn near.
The wood around is filled with sound
From tender voices ringing,
And clear and loud the echoes crowd,
Song grows and swells like pealing bells,
Exultant is the singing!

The wood with flood of answer meets the cry,
Life wakes to love and high
Sounds anew the joyous song of spring !"

A diligent scratching could be heard behind the
curtain, and weary sighs from the marker. Walther
changed his song :

" In thorny thicket hiding,

His heart grown cold with hate,
Grim winter is presiding

Alone and desolate.
The dead leaves rustle where
He lurks and listens there ;
He would the happy singing
To sorrow black be bringing!"

Walther rose excitedly at this point of his song
and sang the second verse. In exquisite words and
stirring music he compared the love in his own heart

Trial by the Masters 1 5 5

to the awakening spring; but, as he paused at the end
of a stanza, Beckmesser rushed out from between
the curtains, showing the black-board, which he had
completely covered with chalk -marks indicating
Walther's errors.

The masters laughed heartily at this, and at
Beckmesser's frantic joy at the failure of the knight.
After talking it over, they decided that Sir Walther
would better sing no more, as he was already out-
sung, according to the rules of the guild. Hans
Sachs alone had been touched by the beauty of
what Walther had sung, and bade the masters have
patience, saying that though it was not composed
or rendered in observance of their rules, it yet
seemed well worth hearing, and he concluded by
beseeching Walther to finish his song. In spite of
jeers from Beckmesser and exclamations of disap-
probation from the masters, the knight obeyed,
thereby winning the good cobbler's admiration by
his perseverance in the face of such discourage-

Beckmesser capered with mingled triumph and
fury; the masters all talked at once; the 'prentices,
who had hitherto remained apart, now jumped up
and danced gayly, much enjoying the confusion
still Walther sang on, and Hans Sachs strained his
ears to hear above the tumult the music which filled
his poetical heart with delight.

5 6

The Mastersingers of Nuremberg

At last the Mastersingers raised their hands, the
signal for silence.

" Now, masters," cried Beckmesser, " give your
decision !"

The masters spoke in unison, and with great im-
pressiveness :

" Outdone and outsung !"

Walther stopped abruptly, bowed to the masters
with a look of combined pride and contempt, and
hastily left the church. The Mastersingers also de-
parted, for the guild meeting was over.

Hans Sachs stood looking musingly on the great
empty chair, and the memory of the Song of Spring
came over him. Then he turned away and followed
the other masters, having suddenly remembered that
he was an ignorant old cobbler, who was incapable
of understanding such genius, and who must forget
it and return to his work.

Leading Melodies of the Song of Spring







Qolce. ores.

(Used also as the Love Motif)

Beckmesser Tuning His Lute

i T ?nr

j: =t

Cobbling Motif


VEIT POGNER and Hans Sachs lived opposite
each other in corner houses, with a broad street run-
ning in one direction, and a narrow and crooked al-
ley in the other. Pogner's house was large and pre-
tentious, with a high flight of steps, and a linden-
tree which spread its branches over a comfortable
garden-seat. Hans Sachs's cottage was small, and
his workshop opened out onto a little plot of grass
with a shady elder-tree.

It was twilight on the day, which, though its real
title was St. John's Eve, was called Midsummer
Eve, and Folly-tide as well. Afternoon had given
place to the cool, quiet dusk. The 'prentices were
frolicking in the old street, singing and jesting. They

158 The Master singers of Nuremberg

were performing their evening duties and closing the
shutters on the lower floors of their masters' houses.

Magdalene came out from Pogner's door and called
David, showing him the tempting contents of a bas-
ket which she carried.

" How went it with the knight?" she asked, in a

When David replied that he had been declared
outdone and outsung, the maid returned to the
house in great perturbation, the meaning of which
David could not fathom, and with the basket still on
her arm, a fact which caused him deep disappoint-
ment. The 'prentices shouted with mockery at his
discomfiture, and David, feeling obliged to be angry
with some one, began to fight the merry boys who
had surrounded him, and were dancing and capering
while they derided him.

Meanwhile a figure had appeared in the alley, and
now advanced with slow tread ; the figure of a tall,
strong man in rough coat and stout boots, with a
full beard, ruddy cheeks, and honest eyes. It was
Hans Sachs, the cobbler. He parted the boys, sug-
gesting that they all go to bed, which advice was
rapidly followed by the 'prentices, who were some-
what confused at having shown such foolishness
before Hans Sachs. David was ordered to do some
cobbling before retiring, and he and his master en-
tered the house together.

Hans Sac /is, the Cobbler 159

Pogner and Eva came slowly through the alley,
having been walking in the fresh evening air. Seat-
ing themselves under the linden-tree, the father and
daughter talked for a few moments, and Eva tried
gently to persuade him to say that he who might
aspire to her hand need not be a Mastersinger.
Pogner was firm, but something in her voice aroused
new thoughts in his brain. He wondered if the
knight who had failed in the song trial had been
in his daughter's mind while she spoke. When
Eva reminded him that their supper was ready he
arose, and walked musingly into the house.

Magdalene had hastened to meet Eva, and now
whispered to her the information about Walther im-
parted by David.

"How can I find out about it?" exclaimed Eva,
in distress.

" Hans Sachs," suggested Magdalene, doubtfully.

"Ah ! He is fond of me, I know. Yes, I will go
to him !" And Eva smiled, much relieved. Mag-


dalene told her not to go until after supper, that her
father might not suspect her errand. Then both
hastened within.

Sachs, having removed his coat, came to the door
of his house ready for work. He bade David bring
him his stool and cobbling-bench and then go to bed.

" Why will you work by this bad light?" asked
the 'prentice, as he obeyed.

160 The Mastersingers of Nuremberg

"You need not wait," was all Sachs's answer.

"Sleep well, master," said David, and turned

"Good-night !" returned Sachs, arranging his tools
before him.

His door was divided into upper and lower halves,
swinging separately. The upper part was open, and
he leaned upon the lower half, looking out into the
quiet street, feeling the cool wind against his face
and breathing the sweet odor blown from the elder-
tree. For the time his work was forgotten and he
sat motionless, content to see and feel so much

" The fragrance from the elder - tree makes me
long for words," he murmured, dreamily. Then he
added abruptly, after a deep sigh, " Of what account
are my thoughts ? I am but a poor, stupid man !
Poetry is a pleasure when my work grows too de-
testable, but I would better let it go and keep to
my leather."

He caught up one of the shoes on the bench be-
fore him, and began to hammer it noisily. For some
time he worked ; then, suddenly, like a faint, beauti-
ful echo, the melody of the Song of Spring drifted
through his mind ; he paused, and leaned back, try-
ing to catch the elusive memory. He could not
quite remember it, but he knew that the very
thought of it brought dreams of innumerable bird-

Hans Sachs, the Cobbler 161

songs in May, of things old yet seeming new, so
strangely sweet had been the singing.

He was still musing on the knight and his song
when Eva crossed the street from Pogner's house
to his.

"Good-evening, master !" she said " still at work ?"

" Hey, Evchen, dear !" exclaimed Sachs, delight-
edly. " Have you come to speak of the shoes I
made for you to wear at the festival to-morrow ?"

Eva answered that they were so fine that as yet
she had not even tried them on, and seated herself
beside him. After a short talk, during which Eva
seemed in one of her gay, mocking moods, and Sachs
spoke with an undercurrent of tenderness and sad-
ness, she began to question him in regard to the
guild meeting that morning.

Sachs said that a knight had attempted to be-
come one of the guild, but had been voted outsung
by the masters.

The cobbler suspected that there was some hidden
reason for the interest which Eva evinced for the un-
fortunate knight, and, in order to decide this defi-
nitely, he pretended to have been ill-pleased with
him, and spoke with much disapproval of his


Eva, fairly furious at this, rose and, in response
to a summons from Magdalene, hurried across the
street, flinging a few parting words of reproach to

1 62 The Mastersingers of Nuremberg

Sachs: "You use pitch for your shoemaking; you
would much better light a fire with it and try to
warm your cold, unkind soul !"

Hans Sachs looked after her, nodding with a wise
and tender smile.

" That is what I thought," he said to himself, and
gathering up his working materials, he entered the

" Your father called you," whispered Magdalene,
as Eva joined her at Pogner's door. " But wait
before you go in hear this : I met Master Sixtus
Beckmesser, who told me that he was coming to-
night to serenade you with the same song with

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Online LibraryAnna Alice ChapinWonder tales from Wagner, told for young people → online text (page 8 of 10)