The Parents of Luther

[ Scene: Eisleben in Mansfeld , 1483.


John L UTHER and his wife M ARGARETTA Z EIGLER .]

John Luther . I left thee, Margaretta, fast asleep,
Thou, who wert always earlier than myself,
Yet hast no mine to trudge to, hast no wedge
To sharpen at the forge, no pickaxe loose
In handle.
Come, blush not again: thy cheeks
May now shake off those blossoms which they bore
So thick this morning, that last night's avowal
Nestles among them stil.
So, in few months
A noisier bird partakes our whispering bower.
Say it again.
Margaretta . And, in my dream, I blushed!
John . Idler! wert dreaming too? and after dawn?
Margaretta . In truth was I.
John . Of me?
Margaretta . No, not of you.
John . No matter; for methinks some Seraph's wing
Fann'd that bright countenance.
Margaretta . Methinks it did,
And stir'd my soul within.
How could you go
And never say good-bye, and give no kiss?
John . It might have waken'd thee. I can give more
Kisses than sleep: so thinking, I heav'd up
Slowly my elbow from above the pillow,
And, when I saw it woke thee not, went forth.
Margaretta . I would have been awaken'd for a kiss,
And a good-bye, or either, if not both.
John . Thy dreams were not worth much then.
Margaretta . Few dreams are;
But . . . . .
John . By my troth! I will intrench upon
The woman's dowry, and will contradict,
Tho' I should never contradict again.
I have got more from dreams a hundred-fold
Than all the solid earth, than field, than town,
Than (the close niggard purse that cramps my fist)
The mine will ever bring me.
Margaretta . So have I,
And so shall each indeed, if this be true.
John . What was it then? for when good dreams befall
The true of heart, 'tis likely they come true . .
A vein of gold? ay? silver? copper? iron?
Lead? sulphur? alum? alabaster? coal?
Shake not those ringlets nor let down those eyes,
Tho' they look prettier for it, but speak out.
True, these are not thy dainties.
Margaretta . Guess again.
John . Crystalline kitchens, amber-basted spits
Whizzing with frothy savory salamanders,
And swans that might, so plump and pleasant-looking,
Swim in the water from the mouths of knights;
And ostrich-eggs off coral woods (the nests
Outside of cinnamon, inside of saffron,
And mortar'd well, for safety-sake, with myrrh,)
Serv'd up in fern leaves green before the Flood?
Margaretta . Stuff! you will never guess it, I am sure.
John . No? and yet these are well worth dreaming of.
Margaretta . Try once again.
John . Faith! it is kind to let me.
Under-ground beer-cascades from Nuremberg?
Rhine vintage stealing from Electoral cellars,
And, broader than sea-baths for mermaid brides,
With fluits upon the surface strides across,
Pink conchs, to catch it, and to light it down;
And music from basaltic organ-pipes
For dancing; and five fairies to one man.
Margaretta . Oh his wild fancies! . . . Are they innocent?
John . I think I must be near it by that shrug.
Spicy sack-posset, roaring from hot springs
And running off like mad thro' candied cliffs,
But catching now and then some fruit that drops . . . . . .
Shake thy head yet? why then thou hast the palsy.
Zooks! I have thought of all things probable
And come to my wit's end.
What canst thou mean?
Margaretta . Nay, I have half a mind now not to tell.
John . Then it is out . . . Thy whole one ill could hold it.
A woman's mind hates pitch upon its seams.
Margaretta . Hush! one word more! and then my lips are closed.
John . Pish! one more word! and then my lips . . .
Margaretta . O rare
Impudent man! . . . and such discourse from you!
I dreamt we had a boy . . .
John . A wench, a wench . . . .
A boy were not like thee.
Margaretta . I said a boy.
John . Well, let us have him, if we miss the girl.
Margaretta . My father told me he must have a boy,
And call him Martin (his own name) because
Saint Martin both was brave and cloth'd the poor.
John . Hurrah then for Saint Martin! he shall have
Enough to work on in this house of ours.
Margaretta . Now do not laugh, dear husband! but this dream
Seem'd somewhat more.
John . So do all dreams, ere past.
Margaretta . Well, but it seems so stil.
John . Aye, twist my fingers,
Basketing them to hold it.
Margaretta . Never grave!
John . I shall be.
Margaretta . That one thought should make you now.
John . And that one tap upon the cheek to boot.
Margaretta . I do believe, if you were call'd to Heaven
You would stay toying here.
John . I doubt I should.
Methinks I set my back against the gate,
Thrown open to me by this rosy hand,
And look both ways, but see more heaven than earth:
Give me thy dream: thou puttest it aside:
I must be feasted: fetch it forth at once.
Margaretta . Husband! I dreamt the child was in my arms,
And held a sword, which from its little grasp
I could not move, nor you: I dreamt that proud
But tottering shapes, in purple filagree,
Pull'd at it, and he laught.
John . They frighten'd thee!
Margaretta . Frighten'd me! no: the infant's strength prevail'd.
Devils, with angel's faces, throng'd about;
Some offer'd flowers, and some held cups behind,
And some held daggers under silken stoles.
John . These frighten'd thee, however.
Margaretta . He knew all;
I knew he did.
John . A dream! a dream indeed!
He knew and laught!
Margaretta . He sought his mother's breast,
And lookt at them no longer.
All the room
Was fill'd with light and gladness.
John . He shall be
Richer than we are; he shall mount his horse . .
A feat above his father; and be one
Of the duke's spearmen.
Margaretta . God forbid! they lead
Unrighteous lives, and often fall untimely.
John . A lion-hearted lad shall Martin be.
Margaretta . God willing; if his servant; but not else.
I have such hopes, full hopes, hopes overflowing.
John . A grave grand man, half collar and half cross,
With chain enough to hold our mastiff by,
Thou fain would'st have him. Out of dirt so stiff,
Old Satan fashioneth his idol, Pride.
Margaretta . If proud and cruel to the weak, and bent
To turn all blessings from their even course
To his own kind and company, may he
Never be great, with collar, cross, and chain;
No, nor be ever angel, if, O God!
He be a fallen angel at the last.
( After a pause .)
Uncle, you know, is sacristan; and uncle
Had once an uncle who was parish priest.
John . He was the man who sung so merrily
Those verses which few scholars understand,
Yet which they cannot hide away, nor drive
The man from memory after forty years.
Margaretta . (sings) Our brightest pleasures are reflected pleasures ,
And they shine sweetest from the cottage-wall.
John . The very same.
Margaretta . We understand them, John!
John . An inkling. But your uncle sacristan
Hath neither sword nor spur.
Margaretta . It was a sword,
A flaming sword, but innocent, I saw;
And I have seen in pictures such as that,
And in the hands of angels borne on clouds.
He may defend our faith, drive out the Turk,
And quench the crescent in the Danaw stream.
John . Thou, who begannest softly, singest now
Shrill as a throstle.
Margaretta . Have we then no cause
To sing as throstles after sign thus strange?
John . Because it was so strange, must we believe
The rather?
Margaretta . Yes; no fire was in the house,
No splinter, not a spark: the virgin's chin
Shone not with rushlight under it; 'twas out,
For night was almost over, if not past,
And the Count's chapel has not half that blaze
On the Count's birth-day, nor the ball at night.
Ah surely, surely fare like our's sends up
No idle fumes; nor wish nor hope of mine
Fashion'd so bright a substance to a form
So beautiful . . . . There must be truth in it.
John . There shall be then. Your uncle's sacristy
Shall hold the armour quite invisible,
Until our little Martin some fine day
Bursts the door open, spurr'd, caparison'd,
Dukes lead his bridle, princes tramp behind.
He may be pope . . . . who knows?
Margaretta . Are you in earnest?
But if he should be pope, will he love us?
Or let us (O yes sure he would!) love him?
Nor slink away, ashamed? Pope, no; not pope,
But bishop (ay?) he may be? There are few
Powerfuller folks than uncle Grimmermann.
Promise he scarce would give us, but a wink
Of hope he gave, to make a chorister.
John. If thou wilt find materials , were his words.
Margaretta . I did not mark the words; they were too light:
And yet he never breaks his troth.
John . Not he:
No, he would rather break his fast ten times.
Do not look seriously . . . . when church allows,
I mean; no more; six days a week; not seven.
I have seen houses where the Friday cheese
Was not (in my mind) cut with Thursday knife.
Margaretta . O now for shame! such houses cannot stand.
Pr'ythee talk reason . . . . As the furnace-mouth
Shows only fire, so your's shows laughter only.
Choristers have been friars . . . . our's may be . . . .
And then a father abbot.
John . At one leap,
As salmon up Schaffhausen.
Margaretta . Just the same . . . .
Then . . . .
John . Ring the bells! Martin is pope, by Jove!
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