صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني
[graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

MANY a century back, if the old Ger- his constant customers for melting songs, man Chronicle may be credited an aged while they drowned the softer passages wandering bag-piper settled at Neisse, with the depth of their sighs. The old a small town in Silesia. He lived citizens invited him at their solemn quietly and honestly, and at first played dinner-parties; and no bride would his tunes in secret for his own amuse- have deemed her wedding-feast to be ment; but it was not long, as his neigh- completely celebrated, had not Master bours delighted in listening to him, and Wilibald played the bridal dance of his would often in the calm of a warm own composition. For this very purmidsummer evening gather round his pose he had invented a most tender medoor, whilst he called forth the cheering lody, which united gaiety and gravity, sounds of harmony, before Master Wil playful ideas and melancholy feelings, libald became acquainted both with old forming a true emblem of matrimonial and young, was Aattered and caressed life.—A feeble trace of this tune is still and lived in content and prosperity, to be found in what is called, the old

The gallant beaux of the place, who German Grandfather's Dance," which, had near his door first beheld those as far down as the time of our parents, lovely creatures, for whose sake they was an important requisite of a wedding had written so much bad poetry, and feast, and is even heard now and then lost so much more valuable time, were in our days. As often as Master Willibald played this tune, the prudest exhaustion to grant every thing; somespinster would not refuse to dance, the times, like a second Orpheus, he prostooping matron moved again her time- posed to carry away, by the power

of stiffened joints, and the grey-haired his harmony, the sweet bride from the grandfather danced it merrily with the Tartarian abode of her father. But blooming offspring of his children. Wido always had objections: he never This dance seemed really to restore would allow the parent of his fair one youth to the old, and this was the cause to be harmed by the slightest offence, of its being called, at first in jest, and and hoped to win him by perseverance afterwards generally, the “Grandfather's and complacency. Dance.”

Willibald told him, “ Thou art an A young painter, of the name of idiot, if thou hopest to win, by an open Wido, lived with Master Willibald ; he and honourable sentiment, like thy love, was thought to be the son, or the foster- the approbation of a rich and proud son, of the musician. The effect of the old fool. He will not surrender without old man's art on this youth was lost. He some of the plagues of Egypt are put in remained silent and mournful at the force against him. When once Emina most mirth-inspiring tunes Willibald is thine, and he no more can change played to him ; and at the balls, to what has happened, then thou wilt find which he was often invited, he rarely him friendly and kind. I blame myself mingled with the gay : but would retire for having promised to do nothing against into a corner, and fix his eyes on the thy will, but death acquits every debt, loveliest fair one that graced the room, and still I shall help thee in my own neither daring to address, nor to offer way.". her his hand. Her father, the mayor Poor Wido' was not the only one on of the town, was a proud and haughty the path of whose life the mayor strewman, who would have thought his dig- ed thorns and briars. The whole town nity lessened, had an unknown limner had very little affection for their chief, cast his eye upon his daughter. But and delighted to oppose him at every the beautiful Emma was not of her opportunity; for he was harsh and father's opinion : for the young girl cruel, and punished severely the citizens loved with all the ardour of a first and for trifling and innocent mirth, unless secret passion, the backward, though they purchased pardon by the means of handsome youth. Often when she per- heavy penalties and bribes. ceived the expressive eyes of Wido en- After the yearly wine-fair in the deavouring to catch unobservedly her month of January, he was in the habit glances, she would abate her liveliness, of obliging them to pay all their earnand allow the youth of her heart to have ings into his treasury, to make amends the undisturbed view of her beautiful for their past merriments. One day the and variable features. She easily read tyrant of Neisse had put their patience afterwards, in his brightening face, the to too hard a trial, and broken the last eloquent gratitude of his heart ; and tie of obedience, from his oppressed although she turned blushingly away, townsmen. The malcontents had created the fire on her cheeks, and the sparkling a riot, and filled their persecutor with in her eyes, kindled new flames of love deadly fear; for they threatened nothing and hope in her lover's bosom.

less than to set fire to his house, and to Master Willibald had for a long time burn him, together with all the riches promised to assist the loye-sick youth in he had gathered by oppressing them. obtaining his soul's dearest object. At this critical moment, Wido went Sometimes he intended, like the wizards to Master Willibald, and said to him, of yore, to torment the mayor with an “ Now, my old friend, is the time when enchanted dance, and compel him by you may help me with your art, as you frequently have offered to do. If your

If your for his Wido. But the haughty mayor music be really so powerful as you say was highly displeased at this proposal. it is, go then and deliver the mayor, He made every possible excuse; and by softening the enraged mob. As a as Master Willibald repeatedly reminded reward he certainly will grant you any him of his promise, he did, what the thing you may request. Speak then a despots of those dark times were in the word for me and my love, and demand habit of doing, and which those of our my beloved Emma as the price of your enlightened days still practise, he deassistance. The bag-piper laughed at clared his dignity offended; pronounced this speech, and replied, we must Master Willibald to be a disturber of satisfy the follies of children, in order the peace, an enemy of the public seto prevent them crying.” And so he curity, and allowed him to forget in a took his bag-pipe and walked slowly prison the promises of his lord, the down to the town-house-square, where mayor. Not satisfied herewith, he acthe rioters, armed with pikes, lances, cused him of witchcraft, caused him to and lighted torches, were laying waste be tried by pretending be was the very the mansion of the worshipful head of bag-piper and rat-catcher of Hameln, the town.

who was, at that time, and is still in so Master Willibald placed himself near bad a repute in the German provinces, a pillar, and began to play bis “Grand- for having carried off by his infernal father's dance." Scarcely: were the art all the children of that ill-fated first notes of this favourite tune heard, town, “ The only difference,” said when the rage-distorted countenances the wise mayor, between the two cases, became smiling and cheerful, the was, that at Hameln only the children frowning brows lost their dark expres

had been made to dance to his pipe, sion, pikes and torches fell out of the but here


and old seemed under threatening fists, and the enraged as- the same magical influence. By such sailants moved about marking with their artful delusions, the mayor turned every steps the measure of the music. At merciful heart from the prisoner. The last, the whole multitude began to dread of necromancy, and the example dance, and the square, that was lately of the children of Hameln, worked so the scene of riot and confusion, bore strongly, that sheriffs and clerks were now the appearance of a gay dancing writing day and night. The secretary assembly. The piper, with his magic calculated already the expense of the bag-pipe, led on through the streets, all funeral-pile ; the sexton petitioned for a the people danced behind him, and new rope to toll the dead-bell for the each .citizen returned jumping to his poor sinner ; the carpenters prepared home, which shortly before he had scaffolds for the spectators of the exleft with very different feelings. pected execution; and the judges re

The mayor, saved from this immi- hearsed the grand scene, which they nent danger, knew not how to express prepared to play at the condemnation of bis gratitude; he promised to Master the famous bag-piping rat-catcher. But Willibald every thing he might demand, although justice was sharp, Master even were it half his property. But Willibald was still sharper : for as he the bag-piper replied, smiling, saying once had laughed very heartily over his expectations were not so lofty, and the important preparations for his end, that for himself he wanted no temporal he now laid himself down upon his goods whatever'; but since his lordship, straw and died ! the mayor, had pledged his word to Shortly before his death, he sent for grant to him in every thing he might his beloved Wido, and addressed him demand, so he beseeched him, with for the last time.-_“Young man,” said due respect, to grant fair Emma's hand he, “thou seest, that in thy way of viewing mankind and the world I can mischief, this wicked, worthless tool render thee no assistance. I am tired shall be buried together with its master." of the whims thy folly obliged me to So they put it into the coffin at the side perform. Thou hast now acquired ex- of the corpse, and early in the morning perience enough fully to comprehend, pipe and piper were carried away and that nobody should calculate, of at least buried. But strange things happened

or ground, his designs on the goodness of in the following night. The watchmen human nature, even if he himself should on the tower were looking out, accordbe too good to lose entirely his belief ing to the custom of the age, to give in the goodness of others. I, for my the alarm in case of fire in the surown part, would not rely upon the ful rounding country, when about midnight, filment of my last request to thee, if they saw, by the light of the moon, thine own interest would not induce Master Willibald rising out of his tomb thee to its performance. When I am near the church-yard wall. He held dead, be careful to see that my old bag- his bag-pipe under his arm, and leanpipe is buried with me. To detain it ing against a high tomb-stone, upon would be of no use to thee, but it may which the moon shed her brightest rays be the cause of thy happiness, if it is he began to blow, and fingered the laid under ground with me." Wido pipes, just as he was accustomed to do promised to observe strictly the last when he was alive. commands of his old friend, who shortly Whilst the watchmen, astonished at after closed his eyes. Scarcely had the this sight, gazed wisely on one another, report of Master Willibald's sudden

many other graves opened ; their skedeath spread, when old and young leton-inhabitants peeped out with their came to ascertain the truth. The mayor bare sculls, looked about, nodded to was more pleased with this turn of the the measure, rose afterwards wholly affair than any other; for the indiffer- out of their coffins, and moved their ence with which the prisoner had re- rattling linibs into a nimble dance. At ceived the news of his approaching the church-windows, and the grates of promotion to the funeral-pile, induced the vaults, other empty eye-holes stared his worship to suppose, the old bag- on the dancing place : the withered piper might some fine day be found in- arms began to shake the iron gates, till visible in his prison, or rather be found locks and bolts spring off, and out came not there at all; or the cunning wizard, the skeletons, eager to mingle in the being at the stake, might have caused a dance of the dead. Now the light whisp of straw to burn instead of his dancers stilted about, over the hillocks person, to the eternal shame of the and tomb-stones, and whirled around court of Neisse. He therefore ordered in a merry waltz, that the shrouds waved the corpse to be buried as speedily as in the wind about the fleshless limbs, possible, as no sentence to burn the until the church-clock struck twelve, body had yet been pronounced. An when all the dancers, great and small, unhallowed corner of the churchyard, returned to their narrow cells ; the close to the wall, was the place assigned player took his bag-pipe under his arm, for poor Willibald's resting-place. The and likewise returned to his vacant jailor, as the lawful heir of the deceased coffin. Long before the dawn of the prisoner, having examined his property, day, the watchmen awoke the mayor, asked what should become of the bag- and made him, with trembling lips and pipe, as a corpus delicti.

knocking knees, the awful report of the Wido, who was present, was on the horrid night-scene. He enjoyed strict point to make his request, when the secrecy on them, and promised to watch mayor, full of zeal, thus pronounced with them the following night on the his sentence : “ To avoid every possible tower. Nevertheless, the news soon


[ocr errors]

spread through the town, and at the to show his penetration on the occasion, close of the evening, all the surrounding took the bag-pipe out of the coffin, and windows and roofs were lined with hung it over his bed. For he reasoned virtuosi and cognoscenti of the dark thus : if the enchanting or enchanted fine arts, who all before hand were en- musician could not help following his gaged in discussions on the possibility profession even in the tomb, he at least or impossibility of the events they ex- would not be able to play to the dancers pected to witness before midnight. without his instrument. But at night,

The bag-piper was not behind his after the clock had struck eleven, he time. At the first sound of the bell heard distinctly a knock at bis door ; announcing the eleventh hour, he rose and when he opened it, with the expecslowly, leaned against the tomb-stone, tation of some deadly and lucrative acand began his tune. The ball guests cident requiring his skill, he beheld the seemed to have been waiting for the buried Master Willibald in propria

for at the very first notes they persona. My bag-pipe,” said he, rushed forth out of the graves and vaults, very composedly, and passing by the through grass hills and heavy stones. trembling sexton, he took it from the Corpses and skeletons, shrouded and wall where it was hung up : then he bare, tall and small, men and women,

returned to his tomb-stone, and began all running to and fro, dancing and to blow. The guests, invited by the turning, wheedling and whirling round tune, came like the preceding night, the player, quicker or more slow ac and were preparing for their midnight cording to the measure he played, till dance in the church-yard. But this the clock tolled the hour of midnight. time the musician began to march forThen dancers and piper withdrew ward, and proceeded with his numerous again to rest. The living spectators, at

and ghastly suite through the gate of their windows and on their roofs, now the church-yard to the town, and led confessed, that “ there are more things his nightly parade through all the in heaven and earth than are dreamt of streets, till the clock struck twelve, in our philosophy.” The mayor had no when all returned again to their dark sooner retired from the tower, than he abodes. ordered the painter to be cast into The inhabitants of Neisse now began prison that very night, hoping to learn to fear, lest the awful night wanderers from his examination, or perhaps by might shortly enter their own houses. putting him to the torture, how the Some of the chief magistrates earnestly magic nuisance of his foster-father might entreated the mayor to lay the charm, be removed.

by making good his word to the bagWido did not fail to remind the piper. But the mayor would not listen mayor of his ingratitude towards Master to it; he even pretended that Wido Willibald, and maintained, that the shared in the infernal arts of the old deceased troubled the town, bereft the rat-catcher, and added, “ The dauber dead of their rest, and the living of their deserves rather the funeral-pile than sleep, only because he had received, the bridal-bed.” But in the following instead of the promised reward for the night the dancing spectres came again liberation of the mayor, a scornful re- into the town, and although no music fusal, and moreover had been thrown was heard, yet it was easily seen by into prison most unjustly, and buried their motions, that the dancers went in a degrading manner.

This speech

through the figure of the “Grandfather's made a very deep impression upon the Dance.” This night they behaved minds of the magistrates ; they instantly much worse than before. For they ordered the body of Master Willibald to stopped at the house wherein a betrothed be taken out of his tomb, and laid in a damsel lived, and here they turned in a more respectable place. The sexton, wild whirling dance round a shadow,

« السابقةمتابعة »