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Friedrich’s Ballad
by [?]

A TALE OF THE FEAST OF ST. NICHOLAS.

“Ne pinger ne scolpir fia piu che queti,
L’anima volta a quell’ Amor divino
Ch’asserse a prender noi in Croce le braccia.”

“Painting and Sculpture’s aid in vain I crave,
My one sole refuge is that Love divine
Which from the Cross stretched forth its arms to save.”

Written by MICHAEL ANGELO at the age of 83.

“So be it,” said one of the council, as he rose and addressed the others. “It is now finally decided. The Story Woman is to be walled up.”

The council was not an ecclesiastical one, and the woman condemned to the barbarous and bygone punishment of being “walled up” was not an offending nun. In fact the Story Woman (or Maerchen-Frau as she is called in Germany) may be taken to represent the imaginary personage who is known in England by the name of Mother Bunch, or Mother Goose; and it was in this instance the name given by a certain family of children to an old book of ballads and poems, which they were accustomed to read in turn with special solemnities, on one particular night in the year; the reader for the time being having a peculiar costume, and the title of “Maerchen-Frau,” or Mother Bunch, a name which had in time been familiarly adopted for the ballad-book itself.

This book was not bound in a fashionable colour, nor illustrated by a fashionable artist; the Chiswick Press had not set up a type for it, and Hayday’s morocco was a thing unknown. It had not, in short, one of those attractions with which in these days books are surrounded, whose insides do not always fulfil the promise of the binding. If, however, it was on these points inferior to modern volumes, it had on others the advantage. It did not share a precarious favour with a dozen rivals in mauve, to be supplanted ere the year was out by twelve new ones in magenta. It was never thrown aside with the contemptuous remark,–“I’ve read that!” On the contrary, it always had been to its possessors, what (from the best Book downwards) a good book always should be, a friend, and not an acquaintance–not to be too readily criticized, but to be loved and trusted. The pages were yellow and worn, not with profane ill-usage, but with honourable wear and tear; and the mottled binding presented much such an appearance as might be expected from a book that had been pressed under the pillow of one reader, and in the pocket of another; that had been wept over and laughed over, and warmed by winter fires, and damped in the summer grass, and had in general seen as much of life as the venerable book in question. It was not the property of one member of the family, but the joint possession of all. It was not mine, but ours, as the inscription, “For the Children,” written on the blank leaf testified; which inscription was hereafter to be a pathetic memorial to aged eyes of days when “the children” were not yet separated, and took their pleasures, like their meals, together.

And after all this, with the full consent of a council of the owners, the Maerchen-Frau was to be “walled up.”

But before I attempt to explain, or in any way excuse this seemingly ungracious act, it may be well to give some account of the doers thereof. Well, then:–

Providence had blessed a certain respectable tradesman, in a certain town in Germany, with a large and promising family of children. He had married very early the beloved of his boyhood, and had been left a widower with one motherless baby almost before he was a man. A neighbour, with womanly compassion, took pity upon this desolate father, and more desolate child; and it was not until she had nursed the babe in her own house through a dangerous sickness, and had for long been chief adviser to the parent, that he awoke to the fact that she had become necessary to him, and they were married.