The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Heinerle: The Peasant Artist.
by Emil Frommel.
Translated from the German by K. W. Bent. (With permission.)
BOOK II.--STUDENT YEARS.
Chapter VIII. In the Workshop.
"Now come and work, Heiner, the days are short and Art is long." So spake the godfather, coming towards Heinerle with the keys in his hand, and the scholar's heart beat, for he thought, "Now it's coming." And it came sure enough. Namely, a great wide workshop, with hundred and hundreds of things which struck Heinerle dumb with astonishment. Godfather left him no time, but showed him on the door a piece of paper, yellow with age, and called him to read it, and Heiner read:
He who knows anything let him be silent,
He who thinks slightingly of small things,
Everything in it place
"Have you understood it, Heiner?" said the godfather.
"Yes, indeed," replied Heiner.
"Well, then, you are lucky. I was obliged to spend a great deal of my education before I had learnt and marked it. You can spare yourself much, boy, if you rule yourself by it."
Now Heiner looked all about him. On the wall hung clocks, large and small, and ticking in all sorts of time. Some went as slowly as an old man's pulse, others as quickly as a fever-patient's; and near them on the walls hung wheels of all sizes, with and without teeth. In the corner stood organ-pipes of tin and wood, and carillons above on the shelf, and near by many old books. On the wall were drawings in charcoal, plans of watches and models of houses; here and there, in between, the head of a man, and arithmetical calculations. At the window stood the turning-lathe, carefully arranged, and along the wall on a shelf all needful tools, like the organ-pipes, from the greatest to the least. For though everything appeared thrown together in motley fashion, yet there was wonderful order in all.
"So, Heiner, this will be your second home, and the things which are in it will become your friends, with whom you will be on good terms. And now sit here, and pay attention."
Thereupon the godfather took a great Black Forest clock, opened the little case, drew out the screws at the back, loosened the hinge, and began to take the clock to pieces, bit by bit, and screw by screw, and laid every part aside in order. then he gave Heinerle the pincers and screw-driver, and said, "Now set about it attentively, and notice in what order the pieces come and how they are fitted together."
Heinerle paid great attention, and was delighted that he might look into the works of a clock, and take them to pieces, for at home he had often wished to examine the great clock and to hasten on its slow striking; but old Huber had instilled into all his boys a great respect for the clock, and they never laid a finger on it. He was soon ready with the interior, and laid all the little wheels and screws out prettily.
"Now, Heiner," said godfather, laughing, "come and put them together again."
Upon which Heinerle looked at his godfather in some surprise, for it now dawned upon him that it was easier to pull it to pieces than to put it together again. The old man smiled when he saw his perplexity, and said, "See, Heiner, now you can understand the proverb that it is easier to unloose than to bind up. Let me help you for once."
He took a stick of charcoal, and drew the clock for Heiner upon the wall as large as life, and showed him all the parts, and wrote the names over them, so that he could find them rightly in the clock for himself, as one who, on being sent into a strange town, might have the plan of the town explained to him. He paid great attention, and it pleased him beyond measure when he had a wheel and what belonged to it side by side, and could fit the works that showed the time, and the striking works to each other. The godfather put on the last hand, and the clock went again. But directly after, he pulled it all to pieces and told Heinerle to go on with the work, for practice makes the master. The old man stood some distance off at the lathe and worked, but he had a mirror before him in which he could observe Heinerle closely, and see whether he had his five senses about him or was scatter-brained, and how his fingers worked; and he was glad when he saw that the boy was deft and skilful. So passed the first morning and evening at the godfather's house, and the succeeding days were as like the first as drops of water are to each other. The only change that occurred was that Heinerle acquired more understanding in the matter with each day, and could take all the clocks in the collection to pieces and put them together again alone. More and more he understood the treatment which the godfather applied to them. For he had a hospital for all the timepieces of the neighbourhood, where house clocks and Dutch clocks, and watches for the pocket, were taken in for their ailments, and kept till convalescent. And he had sorted them according to the nature of their sickness, with the name of the owner and their pedigree, and faithfully noted down the medicine therewith. And Heinerle rejoiced over every new timepiece which was brought to them, at the chance it gave him of learning to know its machinery; and during their work the two entertained each other excellently, and one topic set off another, for the words of Schiller, in "The Song of the Bell, " applied to them also:
"When good talk accompanies it,
It was not at the godfather's like it is nowadays at the watchmaker's, where the journeymen sit before a show window, and have a magnifying-glass in the hand and speak not a word, and at most look out once upon the street, or at the great regulator to see if it is not near twelve o'clock, and where in the meanwhile the "master" has the timepiece in his stomach wound up by means of a couple of partridges, which he washes down with a flask of Affenthal wine. The godfather understood inspiring the work with spirit; and when he spoke of a time-piece, he became as lively as if the watch were a man with whom one could speak and associate. For that man, although he is a living being, has a resemblance often fatal to a watch, the godfather firmly maintained.
"Joiner Fritz's clock," said he once, "suffers from the same complaint as his master; it warns and strikes before the time. You must take care, Heiner, and not strike with the tongue before the hand points to the hour. Otherwise misfortune comes. Think; man learns speech in a year and a half, or two years; but silence often not in his whole life."
Another time he received a fine watch from a stranger, who was staying the night in the village, and whom the people had sent to the godfather. "For if he could not set it right, no one could," they said.
"Look, Heiner," said he, "this is a distinguished town lady, who wants something every moment. The finer the wheels and the whole work are, the quicker it gets hampered and fails. In a Lindelbronn town clock a pair of bats can find a lodging, and yet it goes; but here when a speck of dust falls in upon it, the thing gets put out of order. See, so it is with man and his conscience. If it is coarse work like the town clock, it can bear much; but if it is a fine piece of work, on which the Spirit of God has operated, then it can bear no speck of wrong. Therefore one with a tender conscience should be tenderly surrounded."
Chapter IX. Progress.
All these and similar speeches Heinerle wrote out later, for he noticed that there was more wisdom in godfather's little finger than in the heads and bodies of many bigger men. Every other week the godfather went out into the country and brought in the patients, and took the healthy ones out of hospital; but most of them were brought to his house between morning and evening. For poor people he repaired them gratuitously. If he found a new watch, he bought it in order to study its improvement on the old ones. But he was best pleased when a musical clock came under his care. That was still a secret which every one did not understand. For them the godfather had his locked room and his machinery, where only cylinders and pins were made. Once when he showed Heinerle such a piece of work, he was full of wonder, and exclaimed, "It plays in there as if the bullfinch and the blackbird and the thrush were shut up inside!"
"See, those are my instructors outside in the cage. From them I have learnt their different notes, and in return for that they may hear something beautiful in their turn. So Art learns from Nature when she needs to learn at all, and Art helps Nature again. That you must know, if you ever wish to become a painter."
Heinerle looked at him and said nothing. For two years had passed by since he had been with the godfather, and not a single word more had been said about painting; and he had progressed from one mystery to another, and it had been a fête day to him when he was admitted to the clock-work, and had seen the godfather at his cylinders and wheels. And the old man delighted in Heinerle as he developed under his eyes and hands, like a rose in the sun's rays, and like a hyacinth root which stands in a pot at the window and slowly pushes itself up out of the dark earth. He knew nearly all the godfather's songs, and often sat playing himself at the organ, and the old man listened to him, frequently unseen, and delighted in his full clear voice. When strange people full of mystery came to the godfather from over the mountain, and sang and read with him, then one could see that Heiner was drinking everything in. And he had great respect for these people, which increased for his godfather when he saw how willingly they all listened to him. But he never asked the old man who they were, for he knew that if it was agreeable to him, he would begin about it himself. For Heinerle had learnt to know his godfather through his actions and his way of life, his omissions and his silence, and in this way he had grown to honour him more and more. For he had never seen the old man vexed or unwilling when people came late and asked his advice about all kinds of illnesses, and he felt their pulse, and late into the night prepared potions at his own hearth, for which the prescriptions were written in an old book; nor when they fetched him to see a sick man over the mountain. He had often been over there and heard how the godfather could speak comforting words, so that even a child might understand; and he lightened the heart of the people, and prayed with them, so that it was almost as if the godfather no longer belonged to earth, but was already in heaven.
But all the time the old man had not lost sight of the boy's talent for drawing, for he could himself draw very fairly, as the heads on the wall and many beautiful designs for clocks testified which were carefully painted in oils. He had often taken him with him into the wood and field, and talked with him, and sat near him for hours, when he drew out paper and pencil at his bidding, and began to draw. The old man carefully collected all the leaves which Heinerle had already drawn, flowers and trees, and the faces of the people in the village. He made him observe each flower, and pointed out its special beauty, and each tree he made him follow from its roots to its branches, that he might show it as God created it; and more than once he had said to him that it was the glory of art to follow the works of God, and to reproduce on paper God's honour and majesty. For every true artist must say with his works, "I seek not mine own, but my Father's honour, who is in Heaven." And so no artist must produce bad work, or he disgraces his Master, whom, in any case, he cannot excel.
Thus one light after another dawned upon Heinerle, who would so gladly have set to and become an artist in real good earnest, though he saw no prospect of that as yet. For how he could fit it in with watch-making, organ-building and playing, sign-painting, or with the singing, praying, and concocting little potions, in which last he was also educated, was about as clear to him as his schoolmaster's art of reckoning, of which, as mention has been made, he understood nothing. And yet it was coming to him quicker than he thought.
(To be continued.)
Proofread by LNL, Sept. 2023
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