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At this point the master smiled, and the Tannhæuser started, as if some strange memory had suddenly crossed his mind.
Klingsor,' he cried, “I vow to God thou wert that very priest, or he was thy twin in looks.'
Perhaps so,' said the master. But proceed.'
We entered a gayly-decorated barge, bright with garlands and canopies. No one seemed to pay the slightest attention to me, and indeed the whole pageant always comes to my memory more like some beautiful phantom array than an earthly wedding. Suddenly the bride, who had gradually assumed to my eyes a more than mortal loveliness
a beauty whose unearthly glory infinitely transcended aught that I ever could have believed — turned, and laying her small hand upon my arm, said, to my astonishment:
“Do you find us, then, so beautiful ?'
“There is yet a third bride, whose attendants we are; and before whose loveliness we are pale ard dim. She has chosen thee, Tannhæuser, for her knight, and hers thou wilt be, though long years must pass — years of truth, noble conduct, and devotion ere thou canst win the Queen of Beauty.''
“And that was all,' said Klingsor.
'It was all,' answered Tannhæuser, ‘for here the barge paused, and the priest, of whom I spoke, led me forth like one in a dream. And verily the party seemed to vanish dream-like, as it floated down the canal.
Since that day the memory of those fair brides has never left me; and during all the changes of a wild life, the promise made has never been forgotten. I have, as thou knowest, won me a name among poets; I haye fought in Palestine, and I have lost land and living in defence of beauty, truth, and honor.'
• Thou hast indeed spoken truth in thine own verse,' replied the master, quoting from a poem of Tannhæuser, which was then popular throughout Germany.
* Constant faith the knight must bear,
Such as I have borne for mine.'
‘But, Tannhäuser, thou little weenest who this thy lady-bride may be. How canst thou thus love one who is plainly enough unworldly, and strange in her nature ; perhaps some sprite whom the Church has banned ?'
'Beauty such as hers, joined to love like mine,' replied the knight, 'would sanctify evil itself. If she love me truly, then she must have a noble, lofty soul; and if we match in very truth, I would seek her through life and death, though every thunder of the Church were hurled after me.'
'Thou hast spoken wisely and well,' said the master; 'but bethink thee. How if it were some pagan idol of Heathenesse whom thou thus lovest ? For such there be still lurking amid silent hills, or far away in the green forest. Even yet the fountain hath its naiad, and all are willing to show their charms to the poet and believer, such as thou; and are ever on the watch to lure
away men to that life of serene beauty, which the Church brands as sinful and deathly.'
Nay, if she be the Lady Venus herself,' cried Tannhäuser with fire, she is mine own love; and if truth and honor can destroy aught, why, then, let me perish!'
'It is not needed,' said Klingsor with a grave smile. "There is a wisdom above the wisdom of Pope Urban, albeit those among men who share it are few and far in the world, and wander obscure and oppressed. Thou art indeed loved by the fair Lady Venus, the Spirit of Beauty, who rose of old Aphrodite from the cold white foam of the sea. She came a giver of life and joy, the life of all loveliness, the union of all harmonies, sparkling and wonderful. Where are her altars now ? Man hath cast on her the guilt against which she warred; and sin and superstition, with their gloomy horrors, have driven afar the ancient rites of the Beautiful and True.'
An abyss of wonder seemed opened to the knight as he heard these words. With a wild joy he replied :
Dear master, I feel that thou hast indeed spoken the truth, and that she whom I love is the Queen of all Love and Beauty. In Cyprus, in Lesbos, and many places of the far East, there came to me rapturous dreams of love and
and in all, her fair presence hovered like a star.' “She is indeed the star-queen,' replied Klingsor, the Artarte of old. For Diana herself, and all things most perfect in all the goddesses, are but attributes of the one only sovereign of love. The fish, sacred in all early religions, types her sea-born power; and the serpent and cone are both emblems of the line of beauty, and of its nature.
. And now thou cold, harsh earth, farewell! Thou hast heard in thine own native land, Tannhæuser, of the mystic Venusberg, where as old legends say, the fair queen keeps endless court, and around which roams the trusty Eckhart, who professes to warn travellers from the snares of demon and fairy, but whose true mission is to keep the profane and sinful far from her realm of beauty and light. There she awaits thee, and there shalt thou meet the reward of thy life of suffering, truth, and honor.'
"Am I indeed so blessed ?' exclaimed Tannhäuser in wonder and awe; can she indeed stoop from her throne and glory to even gaze on me?'
“Ay, and to wrap thy soul in the bliss of her fondest love. But come, we must away. I myself am weary of earth, and would fain breathe the air of Fairy Land. And there will be times when thou, too, shalt revisit earth, for there are missions of the truthful and beautiful for us all; and it is our duty to keep alive on earth somewhat of the old faith, which albeit now smoulders low, will yet spring up to glorify the world. But away! there is a better and braver life waiting for thee!'
‘But we are far from the Venusberg,' said the Tannhäuser in wonder.
* All over the world lie her temples,' replied Klingsor. 'Not alone in Lesbos or Paphos, but in our own fatherland; and in Naples, or here in Venice, are the avenues to that realm of beauty. Behold!'
As he spoke, the old palace opposite began slowly to gleam with a flood of
soft rosy light, as if for a festival. A bridal train gathered about the gate, and as the master Klingsor with his friend approached, the attendants bowed low before them, disclosing to the sight of the latter the two brides whom he had seen of old. The one who had before inspired him with hope, led him in. As he entered the building, all seemed spiritualized and idealized, and made wondrous and lovely. The stern tyranny and horrors of life faded from him like a forgotten dream, while around rose in golden hues the infinite glories of a land of love and light.
She led him onward, and it seemed that with a few steps" he had passed afar over many lands. They paused in a beautiful spot, by a broad, spreading
Around him lay a paradise like naught on earth, for all seemed consecrated by an incarnate and ineffable spirit of loveliness.
They passed over what seemed to his enraptured sense the broad stairway of a palace of light. At every step there was a new sense awakened within his soul — a sense of undeveloped music and infinite love-longing - of all harmonies and of all sources of the beautiful awaking to life, and gratified in their very awaking. There was no beautiful thing of which he had ever thought or dreamed which did not spring up again in his soul, infinitely developed, and bringing with it an endless array of associations more beautiful than itself. A miraculous energy and activity inspired his mind, and he realized that in a few seconds his soul had embraced the action of thousands of
of the dull life of earth. They stood in a dream of endless beauty by the shore of a blue and silent
There was a strain of music soft and low, and amid its bewildering cadence rose as of old to life, the foam-born Aphrodite, Astarte, the eternal queen of loveliness and love. She is by his side ; their arms entwine in embraces of immortal love, and his soul thrills with adoration and ecstasy ineffable as she breathes : Come to me, thou chosen one, for thou hast chosen the right path — the path of truth, honor and devotion. Come among the band of the brave and beautiful of heart who have gone before, for in my realm there is room for all, and love is illimitable. Around thee lives the beautiful. Come, dwell in it with me, its queen!'
Her soft kiss breathed the rapture of the goddess to his soul, and the last trace of earth floated from his memory like the faint shade of a departing cloud in the sun-set heaven.
For seven years on earth men heard no more of the Tannhæuser, and save in his poems, he was in all things forgotten. Long ere he entered the golden Venusberg, as we are told in one of his own lays, he had lost his estates, and that "his castle was without roof, his town without walls, his room without a door, his home sad and desolate. As for Klingsor, though that wise master often walked the world on missions of punishment or reward, they knew him not, and a report of his death was joyfully received at Rome by those who regarded him as one who had lashed the vices of the age, and had boldly sung that
Got minnet valsche kutten niht.'
Or, in English:
God loveth not false priestly cowls
Which hide the serpent's art,
Dearer a pure and noble heart
For seven years, therefore, the noble Tannhäuser dwelt in the magic land of love, and revelled in the smiles of his queen. But his probation of suffering on earth had not been all-sufficient, for there were times when, misled by partial remembrances of what he had experienced of goodness and beauty on earth, he longed to return, and bringing with him the endless array of loveliness, once more convert the world to a purer and more beautiful life than it had ever before known. In vain did the fair Venus laugh away his earthly longings, in vain did she represent that ages must pass ere the spirit of man, blinded and degraded, could appreciate a faith of perfect beauty and truth.
Chiefly did Tannhäuser dwell on the Church of Rome, passing over its errors and magnifying its mercy and good works.
"Go then,' said the Queen, ‘go forth for a time, my good and brave Knight, that thou mayest return with thy last earthly prejudice removed. Little dost thou know that there is even now a mighty tempest gathering over Rome ; that men less blind than thou will rise against its errors and prepare the way by long centuries of stormy reformation, for my endless reign of Goodness, Beauty and Truth. Go, my beloved, thy stay on earth will be short, yet in a few days thy adventures will give birth to a song — a song of the people, which shall have its weight, amid a myriad other influences, to promote the truth!'
A glorious smile beamed from Beauty as she thus spoke, and Sir Tannhæuser, with a parting embrace, went forth, anxious to verify the truth of her predictions. One of the innumerable gates of the Venusberg was opened to him by an attendant sprite, and he stepped forth.
He was in a street of Rome! With the first breath of its air came back the agony and doubt, the misery, melancholy and pain of his ancient life. A dim consciousness of some tremendous sin incurred by no guilt of his own, yet which called for the extreme of punishment from an array of awful and terrible judges, began to haunt his mind. Like him who in opium-dreams yielded in anguish and remorse to Oriental gods, because they accused him of an unknown crime, at which the ibis and the crocodile trembled; so did Sir Tannhæuser begin to tremble and wonder at his own guilt. Suddenly as he gazed around, he saw that it was from a ruined temple of Venus that he had come. This, then, was his crime— he had yielded to the power of a Pagan goddess.
'Let me,' said he, 'fly to our father the Pope. He will shrive me of my sin and comfort me for my misdeeds. He is the true font of all mercy and hope.'
This is so stated in the old ballad of the Tannhäuser. Had it not been for that ballad, I could never have believed that he would ever have quitted the Land of Love.
"When TANNHÆUSER the mountain left,
With sorrow and great grief,
To give my heart relief.'
"Now cheerfully I'll tread the path,
(All is by God decreed,)
Who'll help me at my need.'' The Knight had, however, great difficulty in winning his way to the source of pardon. Fortunately, he had gold, and a few court friends who remembered him, aided him, for a heavy bribe, to obtain an audience. In fear and awe he confessed his sin, and avowed that he had dwelt seven years with the Queen of Beauty. And he added that he returned poor as he went, with no addition save the load of sin. At this admission, the Pope shuddered with horror.
“There is no pardon,' he cried, 'for such sins. Those who have left the Church and have it no more in their power to make reparation, are lost eternally. Behold this rod,' he cried, holding up a dry wand, and thrusting it into the ground. “When that rod blossoms, thou shalt be pardoned of God.'
The Knight went forth, but the malediction, instead of breaking his heart, had lightened it. “This,' he exclaimed, “is then the mildness and mercy in which I believed. My heart tells me that my Queen was right, and that I have been a blinded wretch to bear into her pure heaven of love my earthly and grovelling folly. He who desires peace and calm must seek for it in a higher sphere than any ever yet breathed by cardinal or pope.'
As he spoke he stood by the ruined temple of Venus, in the Campo Vaccino. Leaning against its walls was a stately figure, in whom he recognized the Master Klingsor, who greeted him with a smile.
*Well met, O my friend! How goes it with pardons from Pope Urban ? Hast thou perchance a couple, one for thy friend and another for thy lady?'
'Let me back again into the Venusberg,' cried the Tannhæuser; "this air smothers me. Out on the vile malaria of sin, cruelty and dishonor!'
The gate opened and the two went back again into the Land of Love. A bright, rosy light gleamed around the ruin, and the benighted wayfarers who beheld it crossed themselves and muttered spells against the demon, whose temple it had been.
And how fared it with Pope Urban and his stick, which was not so dry and withered as his own soul? Here again we go back to the old ballad, and learn the lesson it taught.
''Twas on the third day after this
The rod began to sprout,
Sought Sir TANNHÆUSER out.' But the reader may well suppose that they found him not, for he now lived with constant and undoubting faith in the smiles of his lady, and in a life of beauty and truth. But the world heard the tale, and drew from it a stern moral.