Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

of the master-sufficed for the whole school, and for lack of paper writing was practiced upon slates.

It has something in it that marks the man, that he has a good word for his old text-books, at least for the best of them. It shows how free he was from the insolence of the mere humanist. He says :

"Some one should render Esop's Fables into German, and bring them into a fine order, for that is a book that no single man made, for very many great people in every age of the world have had a hand in it. And it is an especial grace of God that the little book by Cato and Esop's Fables have been kept in the schools. They are both profitable and noble little books. The Cato has good sayings, and his Præcepta are right profitable for this life, but Esop has fine, lovely res et picturas. ... And as far as I can judge and understand, there are, after the Bible, no better books than Cato's Scripta and the Fables of Esop.''1

Yet he also says: “How grieved am I to this day that I read not more poets and histories, and also that none taught me the

same.''2

But the worse the apparatus the more laborious the work of learning. Only the brightest minds achieved any measure of success, while to all, with cheerful impartiality, the stimulus of the lash was vigorously applied. One of the things he urges with most emphasis in later life is the necessity of making the schools more of an attraction to the young and less of such a terror, as they had been to him. He used to tell that he had been soundly Aogged fifteen times in one forenoon.

“Unfit school-masters often ruin fine minds by their blustering and storming, their whippings and blows, dealing no other with children than does the stock-master with thieves.''3

As school-masters once were the schools were just jails and hells, and the masters were tyrants and jailers, for the poor children were flogged without stint or stop, and learnt with great toil and but slight profit.”4

“It is now by God's grace so ordered that the children can learn with joy and sport, be it tongues or other arts or histories. And it is no more the hell and the purgatory of the schools that we went to, where we were murdered over the casualibus and tem

1 Tischreden, LXXX. & 14.
2To the Councillor of the German cities (1524.)
3 Tischreden, XLIII. $ 155.
4 Enarrationes in Genesin (1546.)

poralibus, and where, with all that flogging, shuddering, anguish and wretchedness, we learnt just nothing worth while.”'l

“In old times the young were brought up with altogether too much harshness, so that some gave them the name of martyrs while they were at school.''2

But to the cheerful, elastic spirit of the child these things could not altogether darken those first days of lite; there was no doubt much to justify him in looking back upon this youth as “ life's blossom,'' as he calls it. Sunshine and snow-fall, flowers and birds, apples and nuts, spring-time and harvest, new breeches and birthday cakes were as real at the foot of the Hartz as any. where in the world, before or since. High tides of joy there were, Easters and Christmases, Shrove Tuesdays and All-Hallow Eves, weddings and christenings, church spectacles and miracle plays, holy song in church and school, and brave ballads by the fire-side, and manifold sights and sounds to gladden young hearts that had not lost the power to draw enjoyment out of little things. Even the wretched monotony of school-time was broken in upon by such shows as that of Palm Sunday, when

" ... They rode the holy ass and strewed palms. Thus was it done for the young folks' sake, that they might the better grasp and hold the history [with such lively results, that] latterly the pope brought this child's play into the church.''3

He sometimes recalls pictures that, seen in his youth, had fixed themselves upon his mental retina. “They used to paint it on the walls how Christ went down, and, with a chorister's cap on His head and a banner in His hand, draws near to the gates of hell and therewith smites down Satan and drives him off, takes hell by storm and fetches forth them that are His. Just as on Easter eve they set up a play for the children. And it likes me well that these things should be thus depicted, played, sung or said before the simple.”4

But the asceticism of the times set rigid limits to these innocent enjoyments.

“When I was a boy all plays were forbidden, so that cardmakers, pipers and players were not let come to the sacrament, and any that had taken part in plays, dances and other spectacles and dramas, or had but looked on and were standing by, had to tell of it in confession.''1

1 To the Councilors of the German Cities (1524). ?Enarrationes in Genesin (1546.) 3 House Postill (Rörer); Sermon on Palm-Sunday (1534.) ,: Sermon at Torgau (1533.)

“The Pope condemned dances because he was a foe to lawful marriage."'?

His intercourse with his elders and his equals in age exerted, of course, the most influence upon him. The lad whom Omeler used to carry to and from school, we may well suppose, was one that drew out the love of many hearts. He was deeply touched, we are told, on awakening in the middle of the night and finding his severe and reserved father kneeling at his child's bedside in earnest prayer that his Martin might grow up a good and useful man. In one of his sermons he recalls a Malthusian saying of Hans Luther's, which seems to show that the miner felt the struggle for existence very keenly.

“I have often heard my dear father say: 'He had it of his parents, my grandparents, that there were far more men upon earth who ate there, than all the sheaves in all the fields of the whole world would make, if gathered together.'"13

Hans Luther, however, by dint of hard work, rose to a moderate competency, becoming the owner of two smelting furnaces in Mansfeld—where most master-miners owned but a single furnace-and dying the incumbent of a local magistracy, and worth two thousand guilders. The business was not unprofitable, but it was exceedingly full of risk and hardship. Luther, in preaching on Genesis (1546) says that he could cite many examples of “bro. thers of Laban in his native city who had gathered much gold and goods into a purse with holes therein, so that their gear was spent as fast as gotten." In preaching on the injunction to take no thought for the morrow, he says:

“Behold how, things go on in the mines, with what painstaking they dig and search; yet it often happens that where they do most hope to find ore, and where the promise is fairest, as if it would turn out pure gold, there they find nothing, or the vein stops suddenly, or disappears under their hands. Again another place that they held as good for nought, and let lie untouched, gives full often the richest yield; and one that hath ventured all his havings therein hath no gain, while another from a beggar becometh a lord, and in ten years more a beggar again.

1 Tischreden, iv. & 126.
2 De Wette, vi. 345.
3 Sermon on the Resurrection, (1545 or 1546.)

In short we may say, 'It is not in the seeking but in the bestowing, not in the finding but in the fortune, when good hap and blessing go therewith.'”

It was his delight in late years to identify himself with the mining class. He used to say that as God lets us trace His works under the earth by mining, so had the Pope been brought to light by a miner of Mansfeld. On a Shrove Tuesday at Wittemberg some one pointed out among the mummers a company of honest slate-quarriers playing his favorite game of chess. He claimed them as “my dear father's comrades of the pick,” and had a good word for their amusement: “For folk that stick all week under ground must once in a while be allowed an honest passtime and refreshment, and encouraged to take it ;' and indeed in no calling was the contrast between feast days and working days so great, and none threw themselves with more abandon into the enjoyments that filled up the interspaces of their dangerous and unpleasant handicraft.

Matthesius, who preached and labored among the miners of the Joachimsthal, says that Luther received frequent visits from them, and was brought pieces of ore as gifts. He entertained them in his house at Wittemberg, as indeed berg-raths and miners from other districts of the Hartz. He knew how to suit himself to their ways, to talk in miner's fashion and be of good cheer with them. He took pleasure in hearing them sing, learnt their miners' songs and the airs to which they sang them, and passed round the grace-cup with them. From merry jest he passed readily to serious reflection, to speak of “spiritual mining,” and enforce his meaning by images and pictures gathered from their work. His translation of the Bible-of the Psalms especially-is not wanting in traces of his origin among the mines of the Hartz, and his lively recollection of them. The miner's son had a quick eye and an understanding heart.

Everywhere throughout his writings the profound influence exerted by the varied aspects of nature, as seen in old Thuringia, is traceable. Though preached in sandy Wittemberg, his sermons fairly overflow with the parables of her fields and her mountainsides, of her seed-times and harvests. The birds of the air were his especial favorites; a whole book might be made of the letters

Exposition of Matthew v-vii. (1532.)

and passages in which he shows his tender and humorous sympathy with these little, trustful fellow-creatures; he seems to have almost regarded them as his fellow-Christians. It was—in partthis feeling for nature, a rare gift in that pedantic age, that kept him always so fresh, child-like and unworldly, and fitted him to translate the Bible in that plain, simple, homely? way, that has made his version the chief German classic, and has given it such a hold upon the people that the scholarship of Germany hardly dares to correct its short comings, and can produce no version that will take its place. Noteworthy is it that he began the translation, and finished a large portion of it, among the natural beauties and solitudes of the Thuringian Wartburg.

“ Thuringia,” he says, speaking after the terrible desolations that accompanied the uprising of the boors, "was once a very fruitful land, but now it lies under an utter malediction, mayhap because of the greediness of the boors. Our sandy little country has still the blessing in that it far surpasses it, and is fruitful.”

“ Thuringia has a black, slimy soil, that makes it hard traveling to the way farer, if the ground be still wet after rains, which make roads bad.”'2

“ Germany is a right good land, has enough of everything that man should have to sustain this life richly. It has all sorts of fruits, corn, wine, grains, salt, mines, or whatever is wont to come out of the earth or grow upon it''3

This Thuringia was the very kernel of German nationality, the first German region that rallied from the confusions of the vast migration of nations that attended the overthrow of the Roman Empire. In speech, manners, character and history, this was, and is, the Keystone State of Germany. The traditions of the Niebelungers were hers; her territory once stretched to the Rhinebank; her old capital of Mayence was long in the popular feeling and tradition the representative city of Germany, as truly Paris of France, or Rome of Italy. The land was full of legendary wealth and folk-lore; the songs of the people kept alive the old saga of Dieterich von Bern (Theoderic of Verona) and the Raben-schla:ht or Battle of the Raven (the conquest of Ravenna, A. D. 493), in a simpler and less romantic form than the Mediæval poet has

1 We use the word only in its best sense, not as indicating lack of literary power and dignity.

2 Tischreden, lxxvi. & 16.. 3 Ibid. lxxvi. & 2.

« VorigeDoorgaan »