Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, THE CEREMONY OF THE PRINTER'S APPRENTICE; A GERMAN MORALITY PLAY, by WILLAM BLADES



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THE CEREMONY OF THE PRINTER'S APPRENTICE; A GERMAN MORALITY PLAY, by            
First Line: My worthy masters all, whom we are glad to see
Last Line: So long as worthy books find readers in our land.
Subject(s): Apprentices; Books; Farce; Reading


PERSONAGES.

THE DEPOSITOR.
URIAN, the Depositor's Servant.
THE CORNUTE, or Apprentice.

WITNESSES.
THE PARSON.

SCENE—LÜNEBURG.

Prelude.

My worthy masters all, whom we are glad to see;
Matrons and maidens fair, who fill our hearts with glee;
God's blessing on you all! May his kind care and sway
Rest ever on your heads, and guide you on your way.
I ask of all now here, who honor us to-night
And witness this our play, to understand it right;
Only to act a farce would be of little use—
The moral of our play must be our best excuse.
We wish to show you how by customs old we've stayed,
And how a 'prentice true a journeyman is made
To praise the noble craft of printing I intend
With all my heart and soul. Now, Clio, kindly lend
Your aid! So shall I find the fitting word and phrase
To glorify our art with well-deserved praise.

The art of printing to us came
And as the Queen of Knowledge began her glorious reign
Thou mother of all arts, thou torch that lights our way,
Thou polar star for all who else would go astray!
Thou enemy of wrong, upholder of all right,
Who can withstand thy sword—thy sword of fearful might?

Whence comes to us this boon? Was it a Phidias bold,
Who carved Minerva's form in ivory and gold?
Perhaps 'twas Praxiteles, whose Venus charmed the sight;
Of fearless Dædalus, who vied with birds in flight.
Did printing come to us from Palamedes' field,
The first man who engraved initials on his shield?
Was it Pyrgoteles, who graved on pearl and stone
Great Alexander's head? Of all these it was none;
Nor China, with her arts and learning of old time;
Nor France, with all her schools and scholars in their prime;
Nor Holland, who would fain extol her Coster's fame;
Nor Italy, herself, can the invention claim.
No, 'twas a German knight, our Gutenburg the stout,
The man of noble blood, who worked the problem out;
He lived in fair Mayence, of writers long the seat,
And there, through trials long, he made the art complete.

THE CEREMONY OF THE PRINTER'S APPRENTICE.

Enter Depositor, who walks up and down, looking about with a serious mien and
deportment.

Depositor.—What is the reason, I would know
This house is made so fine a show,
And with adornments grac'd?
Folks throng in here as to a dance;
They cannot come by simple chance
In such unwonted haste.
I fain would know what it may mean:
I'll call my knave, his wit is keen,
Perhaps he the cause can tell?
Come here, you rascal!—Urian!
Come here as quickly as you can,
And answer me right well.
Urian.—Here, master! I come quick and brave
Out of my corner nest,
And as your ever faithful slave
I'll drink now with the best.
Dep.—I am, indeed, quite well aware
That drinking is your only care;
But now, I bid thee say,
Whatever makes this house so trim?
Why are the walls so bright and prim?
Whence all these folks so gay?
Uri.—(Holding his nose.) I cannot tell, but by the smell
A carrion beast must be about;
Some carcase dead, or fiend from hell,
Scents all the house throughout.
Dep.—I think myself there's some wild beast
That hereabouts is holding feast;
There is a nasty smell.
But get thee gone! Go to my field,
See that their spades my lab'rers wield,
And that they work right well.
Uri.—Master! your will shall soon be done;
Adieu, mein Herr, now I am gone. (Exit jumping.)
Dep.—(To audience.) There goes that fellow with a bound,
Truly he is an odd compound;
I think he must be mad.
Now he is witty, now a fool,
Now he is wallowing in a pool;
His pranks are very bad.

(Urian reappears, dragging in by the nose the "Cornute"—i.
e., the apprentice, who is dressed in a most fantastic way, with a big red nose
and a pair of huge horns on his head.)

Dep.—By heaven! what beast have you got here?
'Tis not a goat, nor stag, nor steer!
Say how you captured him.
He is a strange and wondrous sight
As ever saw the Heaven's light:
How got he in such trim?
Uri.—Well! Master, when I went away,
I met this beast careering;
Thought I, 'twon't do for me to stay
He'll toss me, I am fearing:
So straight I seized him by the nose,
And tore his nostrils badly:
Lord! what a stench from him arose,
It turned my stomach sadly.
Dep.—Zounds! I may well astonished be
At such a beast. What name has he?
I wonder who's his master.
His head (driving his knuckles into it) is hard; his belly (giving him a
punch in it) soft;
Two monstrous horns he bears aloft;
Pray, Urian, bind him faster.
Uri.—What! don't you see at once his kind?
His horns betray the brute;
His misshap'd head, and lack of mind,
Declare him a Cornute.
Dep.—A Cornute! bless me! what is that—
A pig, an ass, a mule, or what?
How wild your speech does run.
But listen, Master Urian,
Suppose we think of some good plan
To make of him some fun.
Uri.—The very thing! Just give a glance,
His legs seem over long;
I'll bet a florin he can dance
To any play or song.
Just like a ghost he soon shall prance,
Your ghosts are very strong.
(Lashes him with a whip, while the music plays loudly.)
Hei! Hei! Hei! Hei! now jump around,
Thou wondrous beast, upon the ground!
Look at the rogue; see how he sways,
As though he had the stomach-ache:
He does not like such dancing ways,
They make his heels too much awake.
(After some more gibes and lashes, Urian shows him a piece of
paper.)
Now, gallows-bird! how thou dost stare,
As if thou wast bereft of sense!
This writing read, or else take care
Your head's not crack'd ere you go hence.
Cornutus.—How should I read, you ugly fool?
I, who was never sent to school.
Uri.(Astonished.) Just listen to the rascal's speech—
He cannot read, and yet can preach.
In high Dutch, too, as if the Devil
In low Dutch couldn't be as civil.
You scamp! at once these lines now read
Or else I'll spell them on your head.
Cor.—(Reading doggedly.) A shameless rogue, a worthless wight,
A lying knave, I'm called aright.
Dep.—That's right enough, we know it well,
Your character you truly spell.
Uri.—These Cornute folk are all sad liars,—
He said just now he could not read;
'Tis plain of falsehood he ne'er tires;
A very cheat he is, indeed.
Dep.—Forsooth, my knave, so sharp and true,
His dull deceits will ne'er cheat you.
Now feel his pocket on the right,
While I the left expose to light.
Uri.—(Pulling out a letter.) The devil take thee! ha! ha! ha!
Thou canst not read, thou lubber slow,
Thou Mat of Cappadocia,
Thus do I give thy nose a blow. (Smites him.)
Dep.—(Reading the address on the letter.) "To be handed to the
most honorable, much-esteemed, art-knowing young journeyman, Master N. N.,
who is my heart's love."
Uri.—(Boxing the Cornute's ears.) See! master mine! this dullard here
As a young journeyman would stalk,
For which I now have boxed his ear,
To stop his bumptious, bragging talk.
Dep.—In truth, he is a Cornute mean,
Who is not fit one's boots to clean.
Can any maid love one so rude?
This letter doubtless now will tell;
Outside it looks all very well,—
The writing's pretty good.
(Reading.) Beloved of my heart, my hope, my life, my dove,
To whom I always shall devote my utmost love,
A welcome thousandfold take from thy shepherdess,
Who loves her Lucidor with constant kindliness.
My love to you I vow is far beyond all measure:
Have you forgot me quite, my only, dearest treasure?
Think of the many times I by your love was blessed,
When lip was glued to lip, and heart to heart was pressed.
Alas! I hear to-day that you must be deposed,
And to indignities unnumbered be exposed;
I would upon myself with joy take all these harms,
If suffering for you could bring you to my arms.
I cannot bear to live without my only treasure,
For you alone can make my life a joy and pleasure.
You are my only prop—you make my bitter, sweet;
Oh! that the time had come when we again shall meet.
I sadly fear, my love, you'll be quite lost to me,
And leave me all alone when you deposed shall be.
A secret I've to tell, and do not doubt that you
Will hasten back to me, my love sincere and true.
She who sends this
Waits for a kiss,
But signs no name
For fear of shame.
P.S.—For love's own sake
This ring pray take,
That you keep me
In memory.
Uri.—(In utter astonishment.) A thousand plagues! I hardly know
What of this scrawl to think,
Thou thunderhead, thou carrion crow!
Dost thou at women wink?
Thou art of maids a pretty knight,
With red nose all aglow.
Dep.—And now, thou shuffling young blockhead,
Pray tell without demur:
Know'st thou a trade? Canst earn thy bread?
You dirty, mangy cur.
Cor.—(Humbly.) Truly, I've learnt the printing art,
And by my fingers' skill
I hope in life to get a start,
And keep myself from ill.
Uri.—Thou lying scamp, thou dirty swine,
Is this your ignorance of reading?
Just now you could not scan a line,
And now as printer you are pleading.
There's not a devil in all Hell
So many shameful lies could tell.
Dep.—Printing's an art in good repute;
Printers are learned and acute;
In solving questions they're not slow—
If thou art thus we fain would know.
(Here Depositor and Urian ask the Cornute a number of rare and
comical questions.)
Dep.—We now must make a further trial.
Tell us, thou son of boorish peasant,
Before all friends that now are present,
Canst play the flute or finger viol?
Uri.—Well thought of, master. Now we've time,
We'll stand around all in a ring,
And while each from his book doth sing,
We'll chant a workman's rhyme.
(Here all the workmen and others present join in a chorus
previously agreed upon, but such an one as will not give public offense.)
Uri.—This went off very well, indeed.
Zounds, master, it did sound divinely!
I wish my wife were here to speed
The mirth, for she can trip it finely.
Now let us ask this Cornute tame
If to some play he now can treat us—
Cards, dice, or any other game;
But we must mind he does not cheat us!
Here is the box, and here the dice,
A pot of beer shall be the prize;
I'll bet that he can count the eyes.
Now, beast, a main and try your luck,
(As Cornute is about to sit down Urian tips the bench and upsets him
.)
Will you sit quiet, restless buck!
Dep.—Come, now, and shake your elbows, friend.
Cor.—I wish this game was at an end.
Uri.—(Knocking Cornutus over the fingers.) Right valiantly the dice
you throw,
'Tis plain there's not much green in you.
You'll empty soon my purse, I know;
He must be clever you to "do."
Dep.—As by thy tricks I plainly see
That you're as cunning as can be,
Another tack we'll try a bit. (To Urian.)
Bring here our scientific tools,
He takes us for a lot of fools!
But soon he'll see how we can hit.
Arrange the bench and set it right,
Our talents he shall try to-night.
Uri.—At your command, my master good,
I'll fetch you tools as you may want them.
To cure his faults I'm in the mood;
'Twill be a rough task to unplant them.
(Urian fetches an axe, a plane, a saw, a pair of compasses, a
razor, a ham and a forceps, all made very large of wood. He then throws
down the Cornute on the bench, which upsets. After a lot of comic
business, Cornute is stretched on the bench.)
Dep.—(To Urian.) First, take the axe and hew him square,
Each corner, bump and angle pare,
Then plane him well till all is straight,
Nor for his cries one jot abate.
Then with my compass, in good sooth,
I soon will see if all be smooth.
(Urian, punching him, kneading him, and chopping him
and planing him, knocks him on to the ground again.)
See how he falls now, all a-heap;
Get up, you Cornute! Art asleep?
Dep.—With compasses I'll test him now.
Lie still! or else you'll get a blow.
(Sticks the compasses into various parts of his body.)
Well done! this pig so mannerless
You've planed right smooth, with much address.
His fingers, though, are still amiss,
But you know how to alter this;
So shape them with the file,
And mind that none of them you miss;
We'll make the rascal smile.
(Urian rasps his fingers.)
They're in trim now, so let him rise,
And fetch that ham here in a trice;
We'll see how he can carve.
These horned beasts can ne'er say no!
And as he must a-courting go,
'Twont do to let him starve.
(A great ham is placed before him, and as the
Cornute is about to help himself Urian raps him on the fingers.)
Thou uncouth lout! what dost thou mean?
Where are thy manners? Not so speedy!
Wouldst have first share of fat and lean?
I'll teach thee not to be so greedy.
Dep.—Now has the time arrived, I ween,
To trim him up all nice and clean;
So shave his chin and scrape it.
And as he is to court a maid,
The scissors must come to our aid,
To cut his hair and shape it.
(They daub his face with black soapsuds, then shave him with the raz
or, and pretend to cut his hair.)
Uri.—(Pulling open his jaws.) His mouth with teeth is over-stocked,
Too many has he for his share;
Look at this tusk! I am quite shocked,
It must come out, and so prepare.
Dep.—A monstrous fang, in length a yard;
Reach me the forceps; hold him hard.
(He pretends to pull out a tooth.)
Uri.—(Showing a big piece of wood shaped like a tooth.) In all my
days I never saw
A tusk like this in any jaw.
Dep.—The tooth is out, brave Urian,
Give me pomatum now, my man,
T' anoint his sheepish head;
Should he a maid from far give some ache,
His nearer sight will turn her stomach;
And if he through the streets will go,
The dogs will follow him, I know.
(They rub a lot of foul grease over his head.)
Uri.—Hear me, you maidens! Steel your hearts
Against this brute of evil savor;
He has no manners, no good parts,
And you'd be poison'd by his flavor.
Dep.—Now lend a hand, my trusty knave,
And we his horse-hair head will shave;
While on his head this knife I'll wield
I will to you the scissors yield.
Have done, now, this is quite enough,
So fine is he, that we seem rough.
Uri.—(Knocking his hat over his eyes.) A grand improvement: now
let's see
If we can sing another glee:
And try him for the last time.
Our games are nearly over now—
The finis of our game is near;
Present will soon be past time.
(Here a Volks-lied may be sung.)
Dep.—(Addressing Cornute.) You've had what you deserv'd; now say,
Will you reform, and from this day?
Cor.—To live henceforth I will endeavor
In virtue and in honor ever.
Dep.—Good! man of horns; now prithee say
If more of me you want to-day.
Cor.—My great wish is, sir, if you can,
Make me an honest journeyman.
Uri.—For that you are as fit, I vow,
As my grandmother's fat old sow.
Dep.—(Takes up the hatchet and knocks the hat and horns off the head
of Cornutus.) There fall your horns; now take your oath
That vengeance you will ne'er essay
On either one of us or both
For all the scorn you've had to-day.
(Cornutus takes oath, repeating solemnly after Depositor.)
Dep.—I swear now at the end
Cor.—I swear now at the end
Dep.—My own cash I can spend,
Cor.—My own cash I can spend,
Dep.—And naught else I intend;
Cor.—And naught else I intend;
Dep.—No vengeance will I seek,
Cor.—No vengeance will I seek,
Dep.—But hold myself quite meek.
Cor.—But hold myself quite meek,
And offer you my cheek.
Dep.—(Gives him a hard box on the ear.) Your wages take thus from my h
and,
Henceforth from no one you shall stand
Such treatment as to-day's;
And now confess each evil deed,
Take good advice to serve your need,
And then go on your way.
Uri.—(To the audience.) Our merry play is nearly done,
The Parson will be now appearing
To do his office. I, for one,
Bid you good-bye, and make a clearing. (Exit.)
Dep.—(To the audience.) Amongst you all, if there be one
Who to our ancient guild would come,
Let him speak out, and with forms old
And all due rites we'll him enfold.
Let him appear, and we, with pain,
Will go through this, our play, again. (Exit.)
(Here the two witnesses go out and reënter, conducting the
Parson, who is in full priest's canonicals.)
Parson.—Good friends and masters all, I give you joy and greeting
What are your wishes, and for what this happy meeting?
I'm told you want me; well, I'm here;
If I can be of use, make it appear.
Witnesses.—Most honor'd sir, this youngster here
Has undergone our proofs severe
With patience and endurance.
We now entreat you set him free
From Cornute bonds, and let him be
Of good hope and assurance.
With water sprinkle him this night,
And tell him how to live aright,
And guide his life in ev'ry part
In true accordance with our art.
Par.—I will do this, but first of all
The Cornute on his knees must fall;
Confession must be made.
And then afresh he shall be named,
Or by our guild I shall be blamed
For leaving part unsaid.

(Here the Cornute shall confess to the priest as follows:)

Cor.—Good master, please to hear what I am now confessing,
Acknowledging that I have spent in sin my days;
To follow wicked men I never wanted pressing.
To vice and actions bad I always gave my praise.
To no one did I good—in doing wrong I revelled;
In mischief I rejoiced—I was an idle thief;
When everything went wrong, I laughed as if bedevilled,
When others were in luck my heart was filled with grief.
When of my 'prenticeship the term was gone and over
I was exceeding proud, as Grandee I would pose,
Who in his vain conceit could always live in clover;
Altho' no man did more all goodness to oppose.
I loved to be called "Sir," or "Monsieur," or "Signore,"
And liked to make pretense I was a man of mark,
So lost in self-conceit was I, and in vain-glory,
That I was oft in broils, and did in strife embark,
I had no mind for art, for manners, nor for learning,
So that at last horns of brutes grew on my head;
But you, good sir, who have my warmest thanks been earning,
Have freed me from these horns, and made me "man" instead.
A printer-journeyman I now am by your labor,
As plainly has been seen by all our honored guests,
And now I mean to live so as to gain the favor
Of God, and all true men; and here my purpose rests.

(This confession ended, the Parson bids him rise, and thus
addresses him:)

Par.— I'm very glad to find
You mean to bear in mind
Your own renown and fame,
And this, your trial, over,
As printer you'll endeavor
To uphold the printer's name.

You have now truly told—
And fully did unfold
How you have sinn'd of yore;
Your tricks and their bad ending,
And that you are intending
To cancel the old score.

Now, if you wish to labor
For honor and for favor,
To Virtue's voice give heed.
I'll call you then in gladness,
When free from vice and badness,
A journeyman indeed.

My good advice now take,
It is no joke I make,
I speak for your good weal;
And first to find endeavor,
A master kind and clever,
Who has with you to deal.

Beware of lies and slander,
From truth you shall not wander,
Be mindful of your fame.
With gamblers have no dealing,
Their trade is fraud and stealing,
They bring to want and shame.

In speech and manner able,
Be modest at the table
As an invited guest.
Speak well to get a hearing,
But be not overbearing,
Talk less than all the rest.

If you'd gain approbation,
Still keep in mind your station;
Don't speak without sure proof.
The absent never slander,
In idleness ne'er wander,
From bad men keep aloof.

Do not retail each rumor,
Such is an evil humor.
And often leads to woe.
But when your fellows gabble,
And joke, and idly babble,
Leave them alone to go.

Of scolding and of railing
Beware,—it is a failing;
To quarrel still be coy.
Refrain from tender cooing,
Matrons and maids pursuing
Will never bring you joy.

Hear much, but keep from telling,
Tales are forever swelling,
Much talk leads to disgrace.
At work be ever steady,
But be not over-ready
To take another's place.

Full many make pretense,
With neither brains nor sense,
To play a printer's part.
Avoid their bad example,
Their ignorance is ample—
Talking is all their art.

Work hard, but work with reason,
Like bees work in the season;
Make all the gain you may.
He who depends for living
On work, must still be giving
His mind to it alway.

Be proper in all matters,
A man in rags and tatters
Is in no easy way;
Low is his place at table,
Hardly will he be able
To find employ and pay.

Attend to proper teachers,
And to the worthy preachers
Who show us what is good;
Go still to church to pray,
On God look as your stay,
The Bible as your food.

Of right be the defender
Against each wrong pretender.
Your promise never break.
Keep clear of debt—'tis sorrow—
Earn all, but never borrow:
Debts make the strong man weak.

Remember what I've said
As through the paths you tread
Of our immortal art.
God's blessing now be on you;
Where'er your fate may lead you
Act like a man your part.

(The Parson then calls on the Witnesses to come forward, and asks them to
name the new journeyman. This done, he solemnly sprinkles him with water, but
in such a manner that nobody shall be offended thereby, and pronounces over
him these words:)
I hereby confirm and incorporate thee, N. N., in the name of our whole Com
panionship,
Veneris, Cereris, Bacchi,
Per pocula poculorum,
Amen.

THIS IS THE END OF OUR PLAY.

The ceremony being now over, the friends come forward and present gifts
to the new journeyman, and wish him good luck. Sometimes a ball is given by
the new journeyman or his parents.
Before the company separates, a young workman, dressed as Minerva, the god
dess of wisdom, or as a beautiful matron representing Typographia, comes
forward, holding a book, or the model of a printing press, and thanks
them for their presence in an

EPILOGUE.

Our guests and masters good, you maidens and you matrons,
Who of this play of ours are pleas'd to be the patrons,
Receive our hearty thanks for your attractive presence;
Your favor is of our content the sweetest essence.
True 'tis we have not shown to you the real old play,
Such as in olden times our workmen did portray
In this our ancient town; such was not our intent,
But just to keep alive old customs we are bent:
We've only tried to prove how much our art we love,
As our forefathers did—to do the like we strove.

The noble printing art that came from Heaven down
Has merited full well all credit and renown.
The world now follows fast the teaching of our art,
And gets from her all joys for body, soul and heart.
Nor say we this alone—our Emperor renown'd
For his magnificence, and with bright laurels crown'd,
Loves this our art right well, and deems its glory true,
As though to his right hand had fall'n a kingdom new.
Our sages and divines, who at all errors strike,
Show to our art their love and gratitude alike.

But pause! why speak alone of men—they are but mortal,
When God Almighty has our art used as a portal;
From whence His holy word may issue and may spread,
A solace for all souls, and of each life the bread.
The Bible now makes bloom the arid wilderness,
Then let all men unite to bless the printing press.

Creator ever good! Great Father of all grace,
We pray to Thee to spread our art to every race.
Our master printers good, and their relations all,
We recommend to Thee—be with them, great and small;
And let Thy holy word be printed by their hands,
And for the common good be spread throughout all lands.
Protect our noble art from all adversity,
And we will praise Thy name to all eternity.

And now you maidens fair, matrons and masters all,
Who kindly have to-day responded to our call,
We thank you from our hearts; your presence at our labor
Shows plainly to us all that we enjoy your favor.
And if our play to-night has not been good to see—
Nothing is perfect quite—next time 'twill better be.
At present fare you well, good wishes with us send,
To please you all has been our only aim and end.
All times and everywhere we are at your command,
So long as worthy books find readers in our land.






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