The Master Singers





I



Across the wide sea, amid the green hop fields of southern Germany, is

the old, old city of Nuremberg. Shut off from the busy world outside by

its great wall of stone, it has stood unchanged through all the passing

centuries. There are the same narrow, crooked streets leading to the

public squares, where quaintly carved stone fountains stand. There are

the same many gabled, lofty houses, with oriole windows that open

outward. There are latticed doorways with plaster figures that beckon

and bless and welcome. And the gray castle, the grass-grown moat, the

dark, pillared church, all tell stories of the days of long ago.



In those days men dreamed dreams and sang songs as they sat on the bench

or in the market place. The cobbler at his last, the baker before the

oven, the silversmith by the fire, even the little apprentice, watching

and learning, looked out upon a fair world and found it good. So while

hands were busy, thoughts roved far and wide, and fancy wove many a song

to sing by the fireside on wintry nights.



But not only by the fireside were those songs sung in the days when

Nuremberg was young. The good people there prized the Art of Song too

highly for that alone.



"Though a man's lot be humble," they said, "his thoughts may be rich in

fancy; he may have a song to sing." So they formed a guild devoted to

the cultivation of poetry and music, and the members of this guild were

called Master Singers. Every man who wished to enter the guild was

obliged to write some verses,--according to the rules of the guild; and

to compose appropriate music for those verses,--according to the rules

of the guild; and, finally, to sing them both together,--according to

the rules of the guild. Then if the masters approved of his performance,

he became one of the Master Singers of Nuremberg. And great was the

honor conferred upon him when he reached this high estate! Many had

tried, but few had been chosen. Indeed, the entire guild was composed of

but twelve members. These were, for the most part, worthy men, devoted

to their trades and to music. And each one had a boy apprenticed to him,

to whom he taught cobbling or soap-making or baking or tailoring by day,

and the Art of Song by night.



Among the Master Singers of Nuremberg none is better remembered than

Hans Sachs. He was a cobbler by trade and a poet by nature, and his

songs and verses have outlived his boots by many a year. It is of his

part in a song festival of the Master Singers hundreds of years ago that

our story has to tell.





II



It began on the day before the feast of St. John in St. Catherine's

Church, which was really not the proper place for a love affair to begin

at all. But what did Eva Pogner or Sir Walter von Stolzing care for

that? The only thing that mattered to them was the joyous Springtime

which had stolen in through the open chancel window and had warmed their

hearts toward everything in the world,--but most of all toward each

other.



Sir Walter stood leaning against a great stone pillar at the back of the

church. He wore a blue velvet suit, his hat had a long white plume, and

he was as handsome a young knight as one could ever wish to see.



Pretty Eva sat in the last pew with her maid Magdalena by her side. Her

head was bent, and her eyes were upon her prayer book, as befitted a

modest maiden. Still she saw Sir Walter very plainly. In fact, somehow,

she caught every message that his dark eyes sent across the church. And

her cheeks turned rosy, and her heart grew warmer than ever the

Springtime had made it. Indeed, those glances so confused her that she

lost her place in the hymn book. Magdalena noticed it and nudged her

mistress sharply. So Eva sent one glance back to the fascinating young

knight, just a little frightened one; and then she joined in the closing

hymn. But when she lifted up her joyous young voice and made it ring

high above all the rest, Sir Walter stared harder than ever.



The young knight had loved this light-hearted maiden since he had first

seen her in her father's house. And his only wish was to win her for his

bride. But how? Suppose she were already promised to some one else!



While these mingled thoughts of joy and doubt possessed him, a ray of

sunshine crept into the dark church. It lingered on Eva's head, making a

halo of her golden hair. A moment later he saw two eyes, mirroring some

of the sky's own blue, dart him a shy glance. And he heard a voice so

sweet that he was sure the angels themselves stood still to listen. Come

what might, thought he, he would speak to her that very day.



The service was over. One by one the people filed slowly between the

dark pillars, and out of the church, into the bright sunshine. Only Eva

and Magdalena lingered, smiling and chatting with friends and neighbors

as they walked slowly along. As they approached the pillar behind which

Sir Walter stood, he stepped forward. The long, white plume of his hat

swept the floor as he bowed in greeting.



"One word, my fair maid, I entreat," he began.



Strange to say, the moment Eva heard his voice she discovered that she

had forgotten her handkerchief. Perhaps it was in the pew. Magdalena

must return for it.



Then, with the maid safely out of hearing, Eva turned her mischievous

face to Sir Walter. She was ready to listen, so he spoke. Did Eva look

upon him with favor? Might he hope? Scarcely were the words out of his

mouth, when Magdalena was back again, handkerchief in hand.



"Come, Eva," she said; "it is growing late."



But Eva was in no hurry, with this gallant cavalier close at hand.

Perhaps he wished to tell her a beautiful story. Had Magdalena seen her

scarfpin? It was gone. Was it there on the floor?



"Good Lena, go back and find it," said the artful Eva.



And Lena went back, grumbling, and searched here, there, and everywhere.



Meanwhile Sir Walter improved his opportunity. The words hurried to his

lips. He begged Eva to tell him whether light and happiness, or gloom

and doubt, were to be his portion.



The answering words were trembling on Eva's lips ready to be spoken. But

there stood the ubiquitous Magdalena again, with the scarfpin!



"We must go home," she said. "Come. Here's your kerchief and your pin.

But where's my prayer book? Oh, alackaday! I've left it in the pew!"



Back she bustled once more.



These interruptions served to make Sir Walter more impatient than ever.

Would he never be able to make love in peace? He took a long breath,

leaned forward, and whispered eagerly: "May I hope? Or are you promised

to some one else?"



And for answer, while Eva hid her eyes for fear they would tell of her

love too soon, there was Magdalena again!



"Yes, Sir Walter," said Magdalena, and she curtsied low, wishing to be

most polite to this handsome young man.



"Yes, Sir Walter," she repeated. "Our Eva is betrothed."



Betrothed? Sir Walter was stunned into silence; misery spread itself

like a black cloud over his face. Nor did the reply please Miss Eva,

either. She quickly interrupted, saying:



"But no one knows who the bridegroom will be. No, not until to-morrow."



Sir Walter knit his brows. That was amazing! Was it a puzzle? What did

it mean?



Eva and Magdalena hastened to explain. After all, it was very simple.



Out in the meadows near Nuremberg a song festival was to be held

to-morrow. It was to be a great singing match. And Eva's father had

promised part of his fortune, and his daughter besides, to the singer

who should win the prize. Eva herself was to crown the victor with a

wreath of laurel. "But," they continued, "he must be a Master Singer. No

one may even try for the prize who is not a member of the guild."



"Are you not a Master Singer, Sir Walter?" inquired Eva, timidly, and

it was plain that she wished with all her heart to hear him say yes.



Poor Sir Walter! Until that moment he had never heard of the Master

Singers. As for the song contest, he never even knew that there was to

be such a thing. What was to be done? Could no one help? Walter was in

despair, and Eva, who by this time knew the man she wished to marry, was

on the verge of tears.



A shaft of light streamed across the church. The door was opened, then

closed with a bang. A youth ran in hastily. He noticed no one. He wore a

businesslike air, as he hurried this way and that. He was David,

apprentice to Hans Sachs, the shoemaker.



From the expression on Magdalena's face when she saw David, it was easy

to see how matters stood! Her heart was affected, too, and David was the

cause. She looked at him admiringly a moment, then gave a little cough.

David started. He hastened toward her, smiling and holding out his

hands. Ah! it was his own true love, Lena! But she must not detain him.

He was busy. There was to be a trial meeting.



"A trial meeting!" exclaimed Magdalena, joyfully. "Just the thing!" Now

the handsome knight would have a chance. She beamed happily upon David.

"You must explain everything to him!" she cried, and whispered the

directions eagerly.



But Mr. David was stubborn. He had no time. There was the platform to be

set, the curtains to be hung, the chairs and the benches to be arranged.

And it was late.



"David, dear David," coaxed Lena, with her face close to his, "if you'll

help Sir Walter to become a Master Singer, I'll bring you a basket full

of the best things you ever ate."



And before David had time to refuse, the clever Lena had seized Eva's

hand and had hurried with her from the church.



Scarcely were they gone, than with a great shouting the jolly

apprentices danced into the church. They hopped and skipped about,

joking and laughing, as they made ready for the meeting. They pulled one

another's hair, they played leapfrog over the chairs, they pushed, they

shoved, but they worked, too, and in a twinkling the church was

transformed into a meeting place. There stood the marker's platform, for

all the world like a great box, with black curtains on all four sides.

To the right of it were the benches for the masters, and in plain view

of all was the great chair for the candidate.



Sir Walter had, all unconsciously, seated himself in the great chair.

His eyes stared moodily ahead. He heard nothing, saw nothing, of all the

fun about him. He was buried in deepest gloom. He had promised Eva that

he would become a poet, a singer, for her sake, and he wished to do so,

but where and how was he to begin? Her father would not allow her to

marry any one but a Master Singer. How could he become a Master Singer

in one day?



While these thoughts passed through the young knight's mind, young David

stood watching. Suddenly he shouted:



"Now begin!"



Walter gave a jump.



"Eh, what?" he stuttered.



"Begin the song," said David. "That's what the marker says, and then you

must sing up. Don't you know that?"



Sir Walter shook his head. He knew nothing.



"He's a stupid fellow for all his fine clothes," thought David. Then he

said aloud:



"Don't you know that the marker is the man who sits in the curtained box

and marks the mistakes?"



No. Sir Walter did not know that.



"Don't you know that the singer may have seven mistakes, seven,--and no

more?"



Sir Walter did not know that, either.



"Well, well! And you want to become a Master Singer in one day. I've

studied for years and years with Hans Sachs, my master, and I'm not a

Master Singer yet. You have a lot to learn," and David gave a great sigh

and scratched his head with his forefinger. Then, like the kind-hearted

fellow that he was, but with half a thought fixed upon Lena's cakes, he

began to explain. He explained the rules for high tones and low tones,

for standing and sitting, for breathing and ending, for grace notes and

middle notes, for rhyming and tuning; and the more he explained, the

more perplexed poor Sir Walter became. His spirits dropped, dropped,

down to his very boots. Indeed, his discouragement was so great that I

fear he would have been much inclined to run away if at that moment the

Master Singers had not come in.



Veit Pogner, the rich silversmith, came first. And tagging behind him,

talking excitedly, and gesticulating while he talked, was the Marker of

the guild, the town clerk, Sixtus Beckmesser. The rest came after. But

their voices could not be heard. The town clerk was so busy telling

Master Pogner that he hoped to win his daughter on the morrow, and that

he would serenade her that very night, that no one else had a chance to

say anything.



Imagine a short man, a fat man, a man with thin, crooked legs, a mincing

gait, a head too bald, a face too red; in short, a clown of a man. That

was Sixtus Beckmesser. Then think of two squinting eyes fastened upon

Master Pogner's money. That was the secret of the town clerk's love for

pretty Eva. He was as different from Sir Walter as night is from day, as

sorrow is from joy, as falsehood is from truth. But he was determined to

win in the song contest. And he had many powers, good and evil, to help

him, as you shall see.



Sir Walter stepped forward, and Veit Pogner greeted him kindly. Surely

so handsome a knight should be favored. Hans Sachs came forward, also.

And all agreed that Sir Walter should be given an opportunity. Only

Beckmesser snarled with rage, for the young knight was a formidable

rival.



"Ha! ha!" croaked he to himself. "Just wait. Let him try to sing! I'll

show him what singing is."



Sir Walter was bidden to seat himself in the candidate's chair. And,

with a smile that was far from friendly, Sixtus Beckmesser, slate and

chalk in hand, entered the Marker's box and pulled the curtains together

behind him.



Then in a harsh tone he called out:--



"Now begin!"



Walter mused a moment and then began his song. The words, the music,

flowed forth unbidden from his full heart. He sang of the Springtime

which came into the sleeping forest, and, with thousands of heavenly

voices, awakened the birds, the bees, the flowers. He sang of murmuring

brooks, of rustling leaves, and of winter all forlorn, lurking in the

woodlands, loath to depart.



And as he sang, groans of discouragement came from within the Marker's

box. There was the sound of chalk scratches, once, twice, and again.



Walter hesitated a moment. Then he went on. He sang of the awakening of

the woods to life, to happiness. His voice rose high in joyous refrain.



But a loud groan came from the Marker's box. Another scratch--another.



Walter took a long breath. He did not care. With thoughts of his fair

Eva in mind, he sang on. He sang of love, which, like Springtime in the

woodland, had awakened his heart. He sang of the thrill of life it

brought, the happiness, the all-surpassing joy.



Suddenly the curtains were roughly pushed apart, and Beckmesser rushed

out, slate in hand. It was covered on both sides with marks!



"Can no one stop him?" he cried as he jumped frantically about. "The

slate is full," and he laughed exultingly.



The Masters joined in the laughter, for, it was true, Sir Walter had

sung according to no rule of the guild. Only Hans Sachs and Veit Pogner,

realizing the beauty and poetry of the song, tried to argue for the

young knight. But their opinions were overruled. The Master Singers

decreed that Sir Walter had lost his chance. He must be silent and sing

no more. Sixtus Beckmesser remained triumphant, and Walter left the

church while the Masters pronounced the decree,--



"Outdone and outsung."





III



The day of toil was over. Twilight came, and then the cool and quiet

evening. A bright moon rode on high. It peeped in and out, between the

gables, behind the church spire, and promised fair weather for the

morrow.



"Midsummer Day, Midsummer Day,

And the song festival so gay,--"



sang the jolly 'prentice boys, as they appeared at their masters' house

doors to close the shutters for the night.



David stood on the little grass plot before his master's cottage, also.

But he was not in so merry a mood. He was a serious young man with a

sweetheart of his own, and he had no time for frivolity or nonsense. Let

silly boys caper as they wished. So he pulled down the shutters and

never noticed Magdalena, who had slipped out of Veit Pogner's great

house across the street and was hastening toward him. The boys snickered

and beckoned to one another in great glee. A well-laden basket was on

Magdalena's arm, and even her voice had an inviting sound.



"David, dear, turn around!" she called. David hastened eagerly to her

side. The boys, too, with broad grins overspreading their faces, crept

forward on tiptoes to listen.



"See, David," they heard Lena say, "here's something nice for you. Take

a peep inside. Doesn't that make your mouth water? But tell me first,

what of Sir Walter?"



"There's nothing much to tell," answered David, quite unconcerned. "He

was outsung and outdone!"



"Outsung and outdone!" gasped Magdalena. "Take your hands off of my

basket. No, sir! None of my goodies for you!" and she flounced off,

murmuring: "What's to be done? Oh, what's to be done?"



David stared after her. He was dumfounded. But the boys jeered and

pointed their fingers at him. They had heard it all. Laughing and

singing, they formed a ring, and capered about David, who became very

angry, and struck out blindly right and left. But the more he raved and

raged, the more they teased and tormented, until, all of a sudden, a

tall figure stood before them. It was Hans Sachs, the cobbler. Annoyance

was written all over his good-humored face. His honest blue eyes sent

out sparks of anger. The boys hung their heads.



"What does this mean?" he cried. "To bed! To bed!" The apprentices stole

shamefacedly away.



"And you"--he continued, taking the crest-fallen David by the ear, "put

the new shoes on the lasts and get into the house. No song to-night,

sir!" They entered the workshop.



All was still on the narrow street for a little while. Eva and her

father sauntered homeward from their evening walk. They lingered for a

few moments beneath the linden tree before the door, enjoying the

evening air. Then they entered the house for supper. Lights glimmered in

the windows. A dog barked in the distance. Peace pervaded the quiet

town.



Hans Sachs appeared again at his workshop door. He flung it open and

peered down the street, then he looked up at the sky. The gentle evening

breeze fanned his cheeks. How refreshing it was! How pleasant it would

be to work out of doors to-night! And, calling David, he ordered him to

place his bench, his stool, the light, the tools outside, beneath the

tree.



"You will not work in this light, Master?" queried David.



"Be quiet," retorted Hans Sachs, shortly. "Go to bed!"



"Sleep well, Master."



"Good night," answered Hans Sachs, as he sat down by the bench and took

up his tools. But he did not work. The silvery moonlight cast a glamor

over the town. It softened the outlines of all that he looked upon and

made them vague, uncertain, beautiful. The evening breeze wafted down

the sweet scent of the elder blossoms, and a delicious languor overcame

him. The soul of the poet arose in the body of the cobbler, and, as if

under a spell, he sat motionless, oblivious to shoes, lasts, tools,

everything. The Song of Spring that the young knight had sung that

afternoon began to haunt him. Faintly, elusively, it came to his mind,

like the distant echo of a melody heard in a dream. Musing upon Sir

Walter, who, like the birds in the woodland, had sung the song his heart

had told him to sing, he did not see Eva trip lightly from her father's

house. She paused before him. Hans Sachs looked up. The sweet girl,

swaying back and forth like a bird on a bough, looked more like a happy

thought than a physical reality.



Eva broke the silence shyly.



"Good evening, Master," she said. "Still working?"



Instantly Hans Sachs' face wore a genial smile of welcome.



"Ah, little Eva," he answered, "you have come to speak about those new

shoes for to-morrow, I'll be bound."



Now, as you no doubt have already guessed, artful Miss Eva had come for

no such purpose at all. To tell the truth, she had feared to ask her

father aught concerning the trial meeting of the Master Singers that

afternoon. For she knew it would be far easier to wheedle the story from

her old friend Hans Sachs.



With a fine affectation of unconcern she began her questioning. But

little did she know Hans Sachs. He, as it happened, was quite clever

enough to divine her plan. He suspected that she must have some hidden

reason for this sudden interest in the trial meeting. At least, he

thought, it would do no harm to find out. So he spoke harshly of Sir

Walter, and pretended that he had sung abominably at the trial meeting.

Indeed, the Masters were quite right in rejecting him! And all the time

he watched Eva's expression and laughed, oh, how he laughed, in his

sleeve!



Eva flushed crimson. She flew into a temper.



"A nice lot of Masters, indeed!" She flung the words at Hans Sachs.

"Little do they know of fine singing, or you either, for that matter."

Then she rushed angrily away, and crossed the street to her own home.



Hans Sachs smiled tenderly. He nodded his head wisely as he gazed after

her.



"Ah!" he said to himself, "that's just what I thought! That's just what

I thought!"



And still shaking his head, he gathered up his tools and entered the

workshop. He closed the door behind him; that is, he nearly closed the

door,--nearly, not entirely, which was most fortunate, as you shall see.



Not long afterward Sir Walter von Stolzing came hastening down the

street. His face was full of sorrow. All his hopes of winning Eva were

gone. He would see her once more, and then bid her farewell forever.



Eva saw him coming. Running toward him, she greeted him gladly and led

him to the garden seat, beneath the shade of the linden tree. And there

the young knight told her of his failure. As he spoke of the

narrow-minded Masters who had spurned his song, his voice grew bitter.

"Ah," he continued, "all hope is gone unless you will marry me

to-night." Eva assented eagerly. And so, in excited whispers, just loud

enough for Hans Sachs to hear, the two lovers planned to run away.



Losing no time, Eva ran into the house and donned Magdalena's cloak.

Then, bidding the maid seat herself by the window in her stead, she

hurried to join Sir Walter.



Just as the two lovers made ready under cover of the darkness to dive

down the narrow street, clever Hans Sachs threw his workshop door wide

open, and the broad stream of bright light from his lamp flooded their

path. Eva and Sir Walter fell back. They could not pass that way. The

cobbler would be sure to see them. They looked in the opposite

direction. No. There was the watchman, and skulking in his wake was

still another figure. Who could that be? He was coming that way. Oh,

this would never do. In despair the lovers rushed back to the friendly

shadows beneath the linden tree.



Meanwhile Hans Sachs, who had no objection to their marriage, but who

felt a great distaste for elopements, had brought out his tools, and had

seated himself at his workbench once more. He, too, spied a strange

figure slinking down the street toward Pogner's house. Well he knew

those thin legs, that fat body, the too bald head, the too red face. It

was Beckmesser, the town clerk, the Marker of the guild. He had come to

serenade the fair Eva. He would show her what fine singing was. And he

looked up at her window expectantly, as he tuned his lute.



At the same moment Hans Sachs, chuckling softly to himself, broke out

in a loud song accompanied by an outrageous hammering upon a pair of

shoes. His big voice rang out so lustily that it completely drowned the

tinkle, tinkle of the town clerk's lute. Beckmesser became frantic with

rage. Suppose Miss Eva should hear! Suppose she should think he was

singing in that atrocious manner. A slim chance he would have to win her

to-morrow! He gazed at the closed shutters Then he ran to Hans Sachs,

scolding and pleading with him to be silent. What did Master Beckmesser

want? And Master Sachs was most indignant. Those were his shoes that he

was working upon. A man must keep at his trade. And the jolly cobbler

went on hammering and singing as loudly as before.



The panic of Master Beckmesser increased. He paced angrily to and fro.

He put his fingers to his ears. And if Hans Sachs had not been so big

and strong, it is not hard to imagine what he would have done next.



At last when the window in Pogner's house opened wide and revealed a

maiden seated there, Hans Sachs ceased. He had a plan. He consented to

listen to Beckmesser's serenade if he might be permitted to mark each

error by tapping on his lapstone. For there were shoes to be finished,

and that was the only way.



The plan did not please Beckmesser at all, but, since he had no choice,

he was forced to agree. So, by way of beginning, he strummed a prelude

on his lute, and looked for favor at the figure in the window. But

before he had time to get his breath Hans Sachs had struck the shoe a

mighty blow and had shouted,--



"Now begin!"



Beckmesser started. Then he began to sing. But a sorry performance it

was. The nervousness, the anger, the malice, had entered his voice and

had made it harsh and squeaky by turns. He sang a line. It was out of

tune. Down went the hammer. He scowled and began another line. It did

not rhyme. The hammer fell again. And so, becoming more and more

enraged, Beckmesser sang more and more falsely, so that Hans Sachs was

kept busy beating a veritable tattoo upon his lapstone. Beckmesser

squeaked, he bawled, he howled, and all the time Hans Sachs hammered and

hammered, until both shoes were done.



This howling and hammering awakened the people in the houses all about.

Shutters were pushed back, windows were opened, nightcaps appeared and

sleepy voices ordered them to be silent.



David, hearing the tumult, peered out. When he saw a strange man before

the window serenading a lady whom he at once perceived to be his Lena,

he rushed out, cudgel in hand. He fell upon the unfortunate musician,

who yelled so loudly that the whole neighborhood was aroused. The

apprentices rushed out and fell upon David, and the Masters rushed out

and fell upon the apprentices, and before any one knew what it was all

about, everybody was hitting everybody else. The clamor and commotion

grew and grew apace. People came running from all sides, and joined in

the general hubbub and confusion.



Only Hans Sachs kept a cool head. Seeing that Eva and her knight were

about to make use of the excitement to run away, he intercepted them.

First he pushed Eva into her father's house. Then, grasping Walter by

the arm, he thrust him into his own workshop and, following him, closed

the door.



The street fight continued. Suddenly the sound of the watchman's horn

was heard in the distance. The crowd was seized with a panic of fear. As

if by magic, it dispersed. The people suddenly disappeared into the

houses, down the alleys, behind doors, anywhere. The lights were

extinguished. All was still.



When the sleepy watchman came to that street, he rubbed his eyes, stared

about him in surprise, and then shook his head. Could he have been

dreaming? He thought that he had heard a noise. Holding his torch aloft,

he blew his horn and cried out:



"To my words, ye people, hearken:

All your houses straight way darken!

'Tis ten o'clock, all fires put out!

Let naught of evil lurk about.

Praised be the Lord!"



Then he went his way. And the moon shone down upon the peaceful streets

of Nuremberg.





IV



Midsummer Day dawned. Long before the town was awake, while Sir Walter

still slumbered in an inner room of the cottage, Hans Sachs sat in the

great armchair by the open window. The morning sunshine fell upon his

head as he bent over the thick and musty volume he held in his hands.

But who shall say he was reading as he turned the time-worn leaves over

and over? His mind wandered far afield,--to the early days of his

beloved Nuremberg, to the trades, to himself, the humble cause of last

night's brawl. And the thought of the two young lovers came to him. He

would like so much to help them, if he could only find a way. So

absorbed was he that he scarcely noticed the youth David who came to

offer him the basket of goodies, which Magdalena had given him as a

token of forgiveness.



And so the moments passed. Hans Sachs resumed his reading, until at

length the chamber door was opened and Sir Walter stood upon the

threshold. Bidding his host good morning, he walked slowly toward him.



"Ah, good morning, Sir Knight," replied Hans Sachs, forgetful of the

great book, which slid to the floor as he arose. "I hope you rested

well."



"Thank you. The sleep that I had was restful," answered Sir Walter, in a

dreamy and preoccupied tone. Then he exclaimed rapturously,--



"But I had a most beautiful dream!"



"A dream?" Hans Sachs was all attention. "Tell it to me!"



"I dare not. I fear it will fade away," said Sir Walter.



"Nay. It is of such dreams that poetry is made,"--and the eyes of the

cobbler gleamed with an inner radiance. "Poems are but dreams made

real."



Thus urged and encouraged, the young knight sang the story of his dream.

And Hans Sachs was moved by the rare beauty of the poetry and music.

Hastily procuring pen and ink, he bade Sir Walter sing it over again

while he transcribed the words to paper. Then, as the song continued,

the kind-hearted master added bits of advice in a low tone. He showed

the young knight how he could keep the words and melody as beautiful as

his dream, and still obey the rules of correct singing. Charging him

not to forget the tune, Hans Sachs insisted that Sir Walter array

himself in his richest garments and accompany him to the Song Festival.



"For," concluded he, "something may happen. Who can tell?" And so the

two men entered the inner room together.



Hans Sachs was right. Something did happen, and very soon, too. Scarcely

was that door closed than the one leading to the street was cautiously

pushed open. And a too bald head, a too red face, and two squinting,

crafty eyes peeped in. Then, assured that no one was about, a wretched

figure limped after. It was Beckmesser, the town clerk, but a sore and

aching Beckmesser; a Beckmesser who could neither sit, nor stand,--a

miserable Beckmesser, whose disposition had not been at all improved by

the cudgeling that he had received. Slowly and painfully he came

forward. And since there was no one at hand, he shook his fist and

scowled savagely at the bright sunshine and the soft air.



As he hopped and limped about the room, he came, by chance, to the table

whereon lay the paper upon which Hans Sachs had written. He took it up,

inquisitively sniffing, as he ran his eye over it. What was this? A

trial song, and a love song at that? And, hearing the chamber door open,

he, then and there, stuck the paper into his pocket. How Hans Sachs

smiled when he saw what the crafty creature had been about!



"Very well, Master Beckmesser," said he. "Since you've already pocketed

the song, and since I do not wish you to be known as a thief, I gladly

give it to you."



"And you'll never tell any one that you composed it?" squeaked

Beckmesser.



"No, I'll never tell any one that I composed it," and Hans Sachs turned

away to hide his laughter, for he knew full well that no Master

Beckmesser could learn and sing that song that day.



But the miserable Beckmesser was beside himself with joy. Such a song,

composed by a master like Hans Sachs and sung by a singer like Sixtus

Beckmesser, could not fail to win the prize! Rubbing his hands with

glee, he hobbled and stumbled from the room.



The time for the Song Festival came at last. The worthy people of

Nuremberg,--the bakers, the cobblers, the tailors, the tinkers, with

their wives and their sweethearts, all clad in the brightest of holiday

clothes, journeyed to the open meadow at some distance behind the town.

And there a scene of jollity and merriment awaited them. Gayly decorated

boats sailed to and fro, bringing more burghers from near and far. Under

tents of colored bunting merry people were eating and drinking. Flags

flew, bands played; there was dancing and singing, laughter and joy. And

the 'prentices in all the glory of floating ribbons and many-colored

flowers ran this way and that, ordering the tradespeople to the benches

one moment and dancing with the prettiest girls the next.



Suddenly a shout was heard: "The Master Singers! The Master Singers!"

And a hush fell over the company, as the 'prentices marched solemnly

forward and cleared the way. The standard bearer came first, and

following him, Veit Pogner, leading the fair Eva by the hand. She was

richly dressed, and looked radiant as the morning itself. Attending her

were other splendidly gowned maidens, among whom was the one that David

thought the most lovely of all. Then came the Master Singers. And when

the people saw their beloved Hans Sachs among the rest, they shouted and

waved their hats in loyal greeting.



The Master Singers took their seats on the platform, a place of honor in

their midst having been assigned to Eva and her maidens. Several

'prentices ran forward and heaped up a little mound of turf, which they

beat solid and then strewed with flowers. The time for the prize

singing was at hand.



"Unmarried masters, forward to win!

Friend Beckmesser, it is time. Begin!"



The 'prentices conducted Beckmesser to the mound. He put up one aching

leg, then the other. He stood wavering uncertainly a moment, then

toppled over.



"The thing is rickety," he snarled. "Make it secure."



The boys set hastily to work, slyly snickering, while they beat the turf

with their spades. And the people near at hand giggled and whispered:



"What a lover!"--"I wouldn't care for him if I were the lady."--"He's

too fat."--"Look at his red face."--"Where's his hair?"



With the help of the 'prentices Beckmesser again hobbled up on the

mound. Striving to set his feet securely, he looked right and left. Then

he made a grand bow.



The standard bearer called out,--



"Now, begin."



And he began. He sang such a song as Nuremberg had never heard before

and hoped never to hear again. Mixed with the tune of the new song was

the miserable serenade he had sung the night before. As for the new

words that he had tried to learn, they were gone completely. His mind

was blank. So he ducked his head and took a peep at the paper, and

instead of the words,



"Morning was gleaming with roseate light,

The air was filled

With scent distilled,"--



Beckmesser sang,--



"Yawning and steaming with roseate light,

My hair was filled

With scent distilled,"--



and much more besides that was far worse. The people muttered to each

other. They could not understand what it was all about. The Masters

stared in perplexity. Finally, as the singer became more and more

confused, and sang a jumble of ridiculous and meaningless words, they

all burst into a loud peal of laughter.



The sound of laughter stung Beckmesser to fury. He stumbled angrily from

the mound and, shaking his fist at Hans Sachs, declared that if the song

was poor, it was not his fault. Hans Sachs was to blame. He had written

it. Then he threw the paper on the platform and, rushing madly through

the crowd, disappeared.



The people were in confusion, the Masters were amazed. They all turned

to Hans Sachs for an explanation. He picked up the paper, smoothed it

out, handed it to the Masters, and said:



"No, the song is not mine. I could not hope to compose anything so

beautiful."



Beautiful? The Masters were incredulous. Hans Sachs must be joking. But

he went on.



"Yes, beautiful. Master Beckmesser has sung it incorrectly. The one who

wrote it could render it in a manner that would prove its beauty beyond

a doubt." Raising his voice, he called:



"Let the one who can sing the song step forward."



And to the great surprise of all, Sir Walter von Stolzing, clad in

glittering knightly apparel, came from the crowd. He bowed courteously

to the Masters, and won the hearts of all by his noble looks and his

manly bearing. He stepped lightly upon the mound, mused a moment, and

then began his song of the dream. And, as before, the words, the music,

gushed forth from his full heart. He put all his love, all his yearning,

into the melody he sang. His voice swelled upward like the rising tide.

And when it reached the full, the rapture of it touched the hearts of

all who listened. The song was finished. A hush fell upon the Masters

and people alike. But only for a moment; soon a glad shout arose:



"Master Singer! Master Singer!"



And Sir Walter von Stolzing knew that the victory was his.



They led him to the fair Eva and placed her hand in his. While the

people waved and sang, she placed a wreath of laurel upon his head. It

was his beautiful dream coming true. Then the Masters hung a chain of

gold around his neck, which showed that he was a member of the guild.

Sir Walter thought of the treatment that he had received the day before

at the trial meeting, and he was about to refuse. But Hans Sachs arose

and spoke gravely of the reverence due to the Art of Song. And Walter

forgot his bitterness, and thought only of his love and future happiness

with Eva by his side.



And so with the people singing,



"Hail, all hail

Nuremberg's beloved Hans Sachs,"



Midsummer Day and the Song Festival came to an end.





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