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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

The Artist and the Priest

By Gerhart Hauptmann (1862–1946)

From ‘The Sunken Bell’: Translation of Ludwig Lewisohn

HEINRICH—Who pays me for my work? Oh, Father! Father!

Would you give joy to joy—add gold to gold?…

If I so named it, and the name you love—

Call my great work—a chime!… But ’tis a chime

Such as no minster in the world has seen.

Loud and majestic is its mighty voice.

Even as the thunder of a storm it sounds,

Rolling and crashing o’er the meads in Spring.

Ay, in the tumult of its trumpet-tones,

All the church-bells on earth it shall strike dumb.

All shall be hushed, as through the sky it rings

The glad new Gospel of the new-born light!


Eternal Sun! Thy children, and my children,

Know thee for Father, and proclaim thy power.

Thou, aided by the kind and gentle rain,

Didst raise them from the dust and give them health!

So now—their joy triumphant they shall send

Singing along thy clear, bright path to Heaven!

And now, at last, like the gray wilderness

That thou hast warmed, and mantled with thy green,

Me thou hast kindled into sacrifice!

I offer thee myself, and all I am!…

O Day of Light—when, from the marble halls

Of my fair Temple, the first waking peal

Shall shake the skies—when, from the sombre clouds

That weighed upon us through the winter night,

Rivers of jewels shall go rushing down

Into a million hands outstretched to clutch!

Then all who drooped, with sudden power inflamed,

Shall bear their treasure homeward to their huts,

There to unfurl, at last, the silken banners,

Waiting—so long, so long—to be upraised,

And, pilgrims of the Sun, draw near the Feast!


O, Father, that great Day!… You know the tale

Of the lost Prodigal?… It is the Sun

That bids his poor, lost children to my Feast.

With rustling banners, see the swelling host

Draw nearer, and still nearer to my Temple.

And now the wondrous chime again rings out,

Filling the air with such sweet, passionate sound

As makes each breast to sob with rapturous pain.

It sings a song, long lost and long forgotten,

A song of home—a childlike song of Love,

Born in the waters of some fairy well—

Known to all mortals, and yet heard of none!

And as it rises, softly first, and low,

The nightingale and dove seem singing, too;

And all the ice in every human breast

Is melted, and the hate, and pain, and woe,

Stream out in tears.


Then shall we all draw nearer to the Cross,

And, still in tears, rejoice, until at last

The dead Redeemer, by the Sun set free,

His prisoned limbs shall stir from their long sleep,

And, radiant with the joy of endless youth,

Come down, Himself a youth, into the May!
[Heinrich’s enthusiasm has swelled as he has spoken the foregoing speech, till at last it has become ecstatic.He walks to and fro.Rautendelein, who has been silently watching him all this time, showing her love and adoration by the changing expression of her face, now approaches Heinrich, with tears in her eyes, kneels beside him, and kisses his hand.The Vicar has listened to Heinrich with growing pain and horror.Towards the end of Heinrich’s speech he has contained himself with difficulty.After a brief pause he answers.At first he speaks with enforced calm.Gradually, however, his feeling carries him away.]

The Vicar—And now, dear Master, I have heard you out:

Now every syllable those worthy men

Had told me of your state, alas, is proved.

Yea, even to the story of this chime of bells.

I cannot tell you all the pain I feel!…

A truce to empty words! If here I stand,

’Tis not because I thirsted for your marvels.

No! ’Tis to help you in your hour of need!

Heinrich—My need?… And so you think I am in need?

The Vicar—Man! Man! Bestir yourself. Awake! You dream!

A dreadful dream, from which you’ll surely wake

To everlasting sorrow. Should I fail

To rouse you with God’s wise and holy words,

You are lost, ay, lost forever, Master Heinrich!

Heinrich—I do not think so.
The Vicar—What saith the Good Book?

“Those whom He would destroy, He first doth blind.”

Heinrich—If God so willed it—you’d resist in vain.

Yet, should I own to blindness,

Filled as I feel myself with pure, new life,

Bedded upon a glorious morning cloud,

Whence with new eyes I drink in all the heavens;

Why, then, indeed, I should deserve God’s curse,

And endless Darkness.
The Vicar—Master Heinrich—friend,

I am too humble to keep pace with you.

A simple man am I—a child of Earth:

The superhuman lies beyond my grasp.

But one thing I do know, though you forget,

That wrong is never right, nor evil, good.

Heinrich—And Adam did not know so much in Eden!

The Vicar—Fine phrases, sounding well, but meaningless.

They will not serve to cloak your deadly sin.

It grieves me sore—I would have spared you this.

You have a wife, and children …

Heinrich—Well—what more?

The Vicar—You shun the church, take refuge in the mountains;

This many a month you have not seen the home

Where your poor wife sits sighing, while, each day,

Your children drink their lonely mother’s tears!

[A long pause.]

Heinrich[with emotion]—Could I but wipe away those sorrowful tears,

How gladly would I do it!… But I cannot.

In my dark hours, I’ve digged into my soul,

Only to feel, I have no power to dry them.

I who am now all love, in love renewed,

Out of the overflowing wealth I own,

May not fill up their cup! For, lo, my wine

Would be to them but bitter gall and venom!

Should he whose hand is as the eagle’s claw

Stroke a sick child’s wet cheek?… Here none but God

Could help!
The Vicar—For this there is no name but madness,

And wicked madness. Yes. I speak the truth.

Here stand I, Master, overcome with horror

At the relentless cruelty of your heart.

Now Satan, aping God, hath dealt a blow—

Yes, I must speak my mind—a blow so dread

That even he must marvel at his triumph.

That work, Almighty God, whereof he prates—

Do I not know ’t?… ’Tis the most awful crime

Ever was hatched within a heathen brain!

Far rather would I see the dreadful plagues

Wherewith the Lord once scourged rebellious Egypt

Threaten our Christendom, than watch your Temple

Rise to the glory of Beelzebub.

Awake! Arise! Come back, my son, to Christ!

It is not yet too late. Cast out this witch!

Renounce this wanton hag—ay, cast her out!

This elf, this sorceress, this cursèd sprite!

Then in a trice, the evil spell shall fade

And vanish into air. You shall be saved!

Heinrich—What time I fevered lay, a prey to death,

She came, and raised me up, and made me well.

The Vicar—’Twere better you had died—than live like this!

Heinrich—Why, as to that, think even as you will.

But, as for me—I took life’s burden up.

I live anew, and, till death comes, must thank

Her who did give me life.The Vicar—Now—I have done!

Too deep, yea to the neck, you are sunk in sin!

Your Hell, decked out in beauty as high Heaven,

Shall hold you fast. I will not waste more words.

Yet mark this, Master: witches make good fuel,

Even as heretics, for funeral-pyres.

Vox populi, vox Dei! Your ill deeds,

Heathen, and secret once, are now laid bare.

Horror they wake, and soon there shall come hate.

So it may happen that the storm, long curbed,

All bounds shall overleap, and that the people

Whom you have outraged in their holiest faith,

Shall rise against you in their own defense,

And crush you ruthlessly!

Heinrich[calmly]—And now hear me …

I fear you not!… Should they who panting lie

Dash from my hand the cup of cooling wine

I bore to them: if they would rather thirst—

Why, then, it is their will—perhaps their fate—

And none may justly charge me with their act.

I am no longer thirsty. I have drunk.

If it is fitting that, of all men, you—

Who have closed your eyes against the truth—should be

The man who now assails so hatefully

The blameless cup-bearer, and flings the mud

Of Darkness ’gainst his soul, where all is light:

Yet I am I!… What I would work, I know.

And if, ere now, full many a faulty bell

My stroke has shattered, once again will I

Swing my great hammer for a mightier blow,

Dealt at another bell the mob has made—

Fashioned of malice, gall, and all ill things,

Last but not least among them ignorance.

The Vicar—Then, go your way! Farewell. My task is done.

The hemlock of your sin no man may hope

To rid your soul of. May God pity you!

But this remember! There’s a word named rue!

And some day, some day, as your dreams you dream,

A sudden arrow, shot from out the blue,

Shall pierce your breast! And yet you shall not die,

Nor shall you live. In that dread day you’ll curse

All you now cherish—God, the world, your work,

Your wretched self you’ll curse. Then … think of me!

Heinrich—Had I a fancy to paint phantoms, Vicar,

I’d be more skillful in the art than you.

The things you rave of never shall come true,

And I am guarded well against your arrow.

No more it frets me, nor my heart can shake,

Than that old bell, which in the water rolled—

Where it lies buried now, and hushed—forever!

The Vicar—That bell shall toll again! Then think of me!