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idea to compensate for it; for he would have been the butt of the company!

Such were the singular customs of the Mastersingers: but yet more singular than these customs, were the laws upon which they grounded their judgments. It would be foreign to the purpose of an article like the present, to particularise the many strange regulations and absurdities of their poetic code: but it may be remarked, that they fettered the freedom of the Muse with every impediment that an ingenious fancy could devise. They had thirty-two laws for the minutiae of composition, which it was compulsory on each candidate to observe and to the infraction of any one of these was annexed a penalty, often as fanciful as the law itself. With such obstacles to the attainment of perfection, even upon their own principles, a freedom from faults was almost altogether impossible: consequently, those performers who numbered the fewest errors were crowned as conquerors. Deducting these aberrations of the victors, the next business was to count the faults of the vanquished; and every syllable in excess of such deduction was expiated by a small pecuniary fine, the product of which went towards the entertainments, and similar expenses.† All the

Every song or poem, for instance, had its given number of rhymes and syllables, prescribed and limited by the master; and every singer, poet, or judge, was obliged to count them upon his fingers. The song [Bar] was confined to three, five, or seven stanzas, or verses [Gesetze], which were divided into two principal strophes [Stollen], each finishing with a crotchet, and sung to the same air: then followed the antistrophe [Abgesang], in a different melody; and ordinarily, the song terminated with a strophe, set to the same melody as the two former. The rhymes, or verses, employed in these songs, or poems, were of seven sorts. They had their dumb, or mute rhymes, called Stumpfe Reime: sounding rhymes, or Klingende Reime: sounding and beating rhymes, Klingende Schlagreime: modes, or blank verses, Weisen, oder einfache verse: pauses, Pausen: coronets, Krönlein: and their mute, beating rhymes, or Stumpfe Schlagreime. To each and all of these verses were assigned their several stations in the poem, and often under such hampering restrictions, as must have been very prejudicial to the sense. Neither was it allowable to change this arbitrary location, under any colour of poetic license; for the principal merit in these compositions was their punctilious adaptation to a mechanical standard, from which any signal departure was punished by fine, and disqualification for the prize.

This syllabical assessment of the penalties was another peculiar feature in the institution of the Mastersingers; and, from the impossibility of a strict adherence on the part of any performer to such a vexatious canon of composition, must have been a very material and equally certain source of revenue. Exempli gratiá: a verse too long,

certaminal, or master songs, were performed in the high German language, from which no deviation was tolerated under any circumstances. Nor was the plea of his own particular provincial idiom of any service to the offending singer. If he was ignorant of the Teutonic language, he was desired to go back, and study in the received standards :-these were the bibles of Wittemberg, Nuremberg, and Frankfort, and the public records of the lordships and principalities of the empire. It ought to be mentioned here, that the harmonies, or tunes of the mastersingers, were of high antiquity, and held in great reverence by that extraordinary body. They are said, indeed, to have preserved, traditionally, the ancient melodies of the minnesingers, or love minstrels: more especially those, which were supposed to belong to the twelve founders of the School of Song. According to some writers, there were not less than four hundred of these melodies; and their names were singular enough. There was the Feilweis, or Melody of the File: the Preisweis, or Melody of Praise: Zarte Buchstabenweis, the tender Melody of Letters: Geschwinde Pflugreis, the quick Melody of the Plough. Besides these, the high allegro Melody of Praise the hard Melody of the Field-the long Tail of the Swallow-and the long double Harmony of the Dove, were among their constant and familiar favorites. In the certaminal exercises, the singers were confined to a rigorous observation of the ancient metres, as well as notes of these melodies. But the composition of original airs was not, on that account, discouraged; and many of these, in manuscript, are to be found in the library of TRAUBOT at Leipsig, and in that of Vienna, and others.

Such rules and institutions, it is evident, were little calculated to kindle the flame of poetry in ordinary bosoms. And, if these meetings of the United Artisans did not produce any first-rate geniuses, where is the wonder? Has even one, among all the literary academies of cultivated Europe, been able to achieve more? The Society of the Mastersingers has not been wanting, for all this, in many excellent consequences. Music and metre constituted its essential elements, and civilization felt her march quickened by their influence. It preserved, too,

or too short, received its punishment syllable by syllable: a word too hard, or too soft-a note too high, or too low- change of measure, or of melody-a pause omitted, or introduced-a strophe more, or less, than the regulation-rhythm violated-rhyme neglected-and twenty other such mechanical minutia, paid their forfeit according to the syllabic tariff.

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among the people recollections of antiquity, which else had undoubtedly perished; and called forth that patriarcho-biblical spirit, which rendered so venerable the burgher families, and artisans of the cities of Germany; nay more, universalised the high German idiom, and made it the language of the people. In the midst of its many curious arrangements, and fantastical and useless formalities, it had the peculiar merit to become the guardian of its native tongue, and transmit it pure through the deflux of barbarous ages.

In this state, without being cultivated by any individual of a genius prominently poetical, the Magistral Song continued down to the times of LUTHER: but at that period there arose a poet, who may challenge a comparison with the happiest of modern bards.

It is a singular circumstance, that in this century two German shoemakers, JOHN SACHS and JACOB BEHMEN-the one in poetry, the other in philosophy-should have been able to impart to their native language à pliability and fulness of expression, which even to this day may serve as models.

Our poet was born on the fifth of November, 1494, in a time of great sickness. His father, who was a tailor, a man of virtuous and simple manners, from an apprehension of the prevailing epidemic, had him baptised on the day of his birth, and gave him the name of JOHN.* He lived, however, and at seven years of age, he was sent to the Latin schools. Of his early boyhood little certain appears to be known, beyond the accidental interruption of his studies by a malignant fever, from which he soon recovered. In his fifteenth year he was removed from the schools, to be instructed in the trade of shoemaking: a business, which, even to this day, has more than once been dignified by such a casualty. The important æra in his life, that which was to influence all his future destinies,

was now not far distant. He was about seventeen years of age, when the Mastersinger, Leonard Nunnenbeck, a weaver by profession, apprenticed him in the delightful art of song: and in this he became immediately so distinguished, not only for his compositions, but for the fine voice in which he recited them, that no common excellence began to be augured for him. Thus initiated in song, he abandoned his paternal dwelling, and set forward on that probationary tour, which was then, and is still customary among the artisans of Germany, in all the common handicraft, to perfect himself in its charming mysteries. Ratisbon, Passow, Saltzburg, Halle, Monaco, Frank

*In the German, HANS.

fort, and Wurtzburg, successfully allured, and gratified his enquiring mind and crossing the Rhine, he sojourned severally at Coblentz, Cologne, and other famous cities. Throughout all these peregrinations, wherever there happened to be mastersingers, he sought them eagerly: whenever he could, to learn from them some ancient song, or melody-but, oftener far, to teach them some new composition of his own. At one period of his travels, the better to familiarise himself with the manners of a court, he procured himself to be appointed huntsman to the Emperor Maximilian. In no place did he abandon himself to idleness, play, or other vices: on the contrary, by his conver sation and life, he dissuaded his friends from them also; and his habits were pure and innocent. His first essay in poetry was a hymn to the divinity. Moving about in this agreeable manner, 'till the year 1516, he visited Leipsig, Lubeck, Osnabrook, Vienna, Erfurt, and other cities, as he himself tells us. And thus, perfecting himself at once in the gentle crafts of poetry and shoe-making, he would have continued much longer his desultory and errant pilgrimage, had not a desire to revisit his native town too strongly seconded the wishes of his parents, and hurried him home. On his return to Nuremberg, in his twenty-second year, he was received a master-shoemaker; and, in the year 1519, married Cunegunda Kreutzer, a hale and handsome young woman of the district. They lived together for a long period in great domestic harmony and happiness, blest with five sons and two daughters. After this marriage, he became quite domiciliated at Nuremberg, and applied himself zealously to poetry, and the labours of his vocation. He studied indefatigably the works of the ancient German poets, and the great Italian authors, particularly Petrarch and Boccacio: but above all, he devoted himself passionately to the Bible, and the works of Luther, whose reform he embraced, and materially assisted with his writings. In the sixty-sixth year of his age he was deprived of his faithful partner, and, before her, of all his sons: but he did not continue long a widower, for we find him re-married in a year. His second wife, whose name was Barbara Harscher, was a woman of great loveliness and beauty; and with her he led the residue of his long life in uninterrupted felicity. Not many years after their union, this eminent poet almost entirely lost his hearing. From that period society became irksome to him, and he began to withdraw himself into his own house. There, at his little table, while the calm sunset of his existence wore gradually away, he would sit reading and writing all day, with his white beard and locks of snow, never speaking to any one but his wife. And in this manner he reached, on the nineteenth of January, 1578, that final moment which awaits us all.

The companions, with whom he had often sung, carried his earthly remains to the tomb.*

In his own age, the poetry of Sachs was unboundedly popular: the master singers were all astonished, and the people received it with raptures. His portrait, engraved in wood, was universal in the coffee-rooms of Germany. But, in the succeeding century, a rage for foreign literature had corrupted the national taste, and the works of Sachs were thrown aside, and left to be rotted by the moths. Time, however, which vindicates all things, has preserved the memory of this original, fertile, and refreshing poet: and it is enough to remark in his praise, that the master genius of his country's literature, Goethe, has imitated Hans Sachs in the most celebrated of his compositions-Faust. In fact, if three requisites are to be looked for in poetry-invention, expression, and enthusiasm we shall find all these blended in Sachs. He is an inventor of forms, and of things: his allegories are lively, poetical, fresh, and brilliant; his expression rich; his language choice, harmonious, and teeming with new phraseologies, full of character, and point, and beauty. But what especially enhances the interest of his compositions, is the fidelity of colouring with which he exhibits the characters, and the times which he paints. And yet, all this would be nothing, if his enthusiasm were not directed by one predominant and absorbing idea, for which all the forms of poetry do but furnish so many vehicles to embody

* His works, collected in five volumes folio, were printed first at Nuremberg, in 1576-1579; and reprinted at Kempten, in 1616, in five volumes quarto. They contain two hundred and twelve pieces of profane poetry, one hundred and sixteen sacred allegories, and one hundred and ninety-seven dramas. These editions are now no longer to be had; but there is in the market a selection from his works, edited by John Büsching, in six volumes, and printed at Nuremberg. † Goethe has besides composed a small legendary tale, which he has entitled, In the manner of Hans Sachs. In this poem he has related with a humour which never encroaches on the respect due to the character introduced in his fable, how when Jesus was walking with his disciples, he saw a horse-shoe, and pointed to Peter to pick it up. Peter, "who was dreaming of the government of the world, or some such matter," affected not to observe his master, and walked on. Jesus stooped-sold it for a penny, and bought cherries. It was a hot day, and on their walk the party were suffering from heat. On this, Jesus dropped from his sleeve the cherries, one by one, which Peter was very glad to stoop for: and at the end he receives a lecture from his master. This is an admirable specimen of the tone of the great master-singer, and of the simplicity of the age, which took no offence at such mixture of the sacred and profane.

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