From My Life: Poetry and Truth - Book 1, pages 43-48


sea voyages and land discoveries. Most of all I remember no circumstance which would have given me such an impression of unbroken peace and eternal duration. *

The respect we had for this old man rose to its highest because we were convinced that he had the gift of prophecy, especially in matters dealing with himself and his own destiny. He never spoke with anyone except grandmother about the details and his decisions but we all knew he had meaningful dreams which instructed him on what was about to happen. For example, he assured his wife back in the days when he was still in the ranks of the younger councilmen, that he would take the next vacant seat on the Court of Magistrates. Soon after one of the assessors died of a stroke. On the day for the election and casting of ballots grandfather ordered that the house be quietly prepared to receive guests and people offering their congratulations. The deciding golden ball was indeed dropped in the ballot box for him. He confided in his wife the simple dream which had told him of the victory — He saw himself at the full session of the Council and business was conducted as usual. The magistrate, who had just died, rose from his seat, came down and presented his compliments to grandfather with a courteous gesture, indicating that he should take the vacant seat. The magistrate then walked out the door.

A similar event occurred when the chief magistrate died. In such cases people never delayed in filling the position because they always feared that the Emperor might exercise his ancient right and appoint a new chief magistrate. This time


a Court messenger came around midnight to announce that a special session would be held the next morning. The light in the messenger's latern was about to extinguish so he asked for a candle stump in order to continue on his way. "Give him a whole one," Grandfather said to the women. "He has gone to a lot of trouble on my behalf." This statement corresponded to the results. Grandfather became chief magistrate. The circumstances were truly remarkable. His representative was the third and last to draw a ball from the ballot bag. The first two drew silver balls leaving the third, golden ball for his representative.

The other dreams about which we knew were just as prosaic, simple and without trace of the fantastic or miraculous. I remember as a boy going through his books and diaries. Along with some excellent observations on gardening I found written: Last night N.N. came to me and said ... The name and the revelation were written in code. Similarly there was: Last night I saw ... Again the rest was written in code except for conjunctions and other words from which no meaning could be derived.

It's worthy of note that people, who normally exhibited no sign of prophetic talent, acquired the ability anytime they were in his presence. They too foresaw instances of sickness and death in the remote future through signs. None of his children or grandchildren inherited this gift. For the most part they were hearty people, happy with life and firmly set in reality.


At this opportunity I reflect with gratitude on all the good things I received from my family during my childhood. For example, we were amused and entertained in so many ways whenever we visited the second daughter, who was married to a merchant named Melber. * Their house and shop were located in the busiest and most tightly packed part of the city in the market area. We were happy to look out the window at the bustle and crowds, in which we would have been afraid of losing ourselves. When we first went into the shop it was the licorice and brown pressed gingerbread which attracted our attention but we eventually became acquainted with all the wares which were handled by this establishment. This aunt was the liveliest of the siblings. While my mother in her younger days was content to sit in clean clothes and perform delicate female tasks or read a book, this aunt would go about the neighborhood tending to neglected children, combing their hair and carrying them about as she had done with me so long ago. Whenever there were public festivities such as a coronation she could not be kept in the house. As a small child she picked up money scattered about on such occasions. People told the story of how she had assembled a goodly sum once and stood to look at it in her open hand with satisfaction. Someone bumped into her and her well-earned spoils were gone. She was no less pleased with herself in recounting what she did on one occasion when Emperor Charles VII drove by. In a moment when all the people were silent, she stood up on a curbstone and shouted a hefty "long live the Kaiser" into the carriage. In response


the Emperor dofted his hat and graciously thanked her for the audacious comment.

In my aunt's house everything revolved around her in an animated and cheerful fashion. She was responsible for giving us children many happy hours.

In a much quieter manner in accordance with her nature there was a second aunt, who was married to Pastor Starck, minister to St. Katharine's Church. * As was appropriate to his sensibilities and his position he lived a life of solitude and he possessed a beautiful library. Here is where I first became acquainted with Homer in a prose translation as presented in the seventh part of Mr. von Loen's new anthology of remarkable travel stories under the title, Homer's Writings on the Conquest of the Trojan Empire. It contained copperplate engravings in the style of the French theater. These pictures spoiled the power of my imagination for a long time because I could not envision Homer's hero's in any other form. * The events themselves pleased me enormously, however I found fault with the work because it never gave any information about the conquest of Troy and it ended so dully with the death of Hector. My uncle, to whom I mentioned this fault, referred me to Virgil, who perfectly satisfied my requirements.

It goes without saying that we children received continual and progressive religious instruction along with our other courses. The ecclesiastic Protestantism, which was delivered to us, contained a kind of dry morality. No thought was given to intellectually enriching delivery and the lessons satisfied neither the soul nor the heart. For this reason there were many divisions from the


legally-established church. There were Separatists, Pietists, Moravians, Quietists, and other groups with various names and designations throughout the country, who were determined to get closer to God, especially through Christ, than seemed to be possible under the form of official religion.

The boy incessantly heard people speak their opinions and thoughts on the subject. The clergy and the laity themselves were divided into groups of pros and cons. The many or few secessionists were always in the minority however their ways of thinking drew people in due to their originality, sincerity, steadfastness and self reliability. People talked about these virtues and their external manifestations in all kinds of stories. The response of one pious master plumber was well known when one of his guild brothers thought he would shame him with the question, then who is your confessor? Cheerfully trusting in his knowledge of the subject, the plumber responded, I have it on good authority it is no one other than the confessor to King David.

These and similar stories may have made a favorable impression on the boy and led him to similar sentiments. * Suffice it to say he came upon the idea of directly approaching the God of nature, the Creator of heaven and earth, whose earlier expressions of wrath upon the beauty of the world and the multitude of good things, in which we participate, had been forgotten. However the path he took was unique.

For the most part the boy held to the first article of faith. God, who had a direct bond with nature, saw nature as His work and He loved her. To the boy it seemed this was the same God who could interact with mankind


as with all creation because of this bond. He had the same concern for man as He had for the movement of the stars, the changing of the seasons, the tending of the plants and animals. Some sections of the gospel specifically stated this. The boy could not imagine a form for this being. He attempted to find Him through His works. He wanted to build Him an altar in the Old Testment manner. The products of nature would represent the world and a flame should hang suspended above the altar to represent the human spirit. From the at hand and ever increasing assemblage of natural items the best materials and examples should be sought out. The difficulty laid in how to arrange and assemble the altar. The father had a beautiful, red laquered music stand decorated with gold flowers, which stood like a four-sided pyramid with shelves that would comfortably accommodate a quartet. In latter years the father had rarely used it. The boy was inspired by this and placed surrogate examples of nature upon it step by step until the arrangement looked right and seemed appropriate. The first worship service was set for early dawn however the young priest could not decide how to set up a flame, which would also give off a pleasing scent, at the top of the altar. He finally came up with the idea to combine both by using incense, which did not produce a flame yet glowed while suffusing a pleasant smell. To his young mind the gentle burning and scenting seemed even better than an open flame. The sun finally rose however the neighbors' houses obstructed the view of the eastern sky.


Go to pages 49-54


Text provided by the Lockwood Library, State University of New York at Buffalo.
Imaging and translation by Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks