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I was still lying in my bed, and leisurely surveying all the noble images and figures up and down about my chamber, when suddenly I heard the music of coronets, as if they were already in procession. My page jumped out of the bed as if he had been at his wit's end, and looked more like one dead than living. In what state I was then is easily imaginable, for he said, "The rest are already presented to the King." I did not know what else to do but weep outright and curse my own slothfulness; yet I dressed myself, but my page was ready long before me, and ran out of the chamber to see how affairs might yet stand. But he soon returned, and brought with him this joyful news, that indeed the time was not yet, but I had only overslept my breakfast, they being unwilling to awaken me because of my age.
But now it was time for me to go with him to the fountain where most of them were assembled. With this consolation my spirit returned again, so I was soon ready with my habit, and went after the page to the fountain in the aforementioned garden, where I found that the lion, instead of his sword, had a pretty large tablet by him. Now having looked well at it, I found that it was taken out of the ancient monuments, and placed here for some special honour. The inscription was somewhat worn out with age, and therefore I have a mind to set it down here, as it is, and give everyone leave to consider it.
("Hermes the Prince. After so many wounds inflicted on humankind, here by God's counsel and the help of the Art flow I, a healing medicine. Let him drink me who can : let him wash who will : let him trouble me who dare : drink, brethren and live".)
This writing might well be read and understood, and may therefore suitably be placed here, because it is easier than any of the rest.
Now after we had first washed ourselves out of the fountain, and every man had taken a draught out of an entirely golden cup, we were once again to follow the Virgin into the hall, and there put on new apparel, which was all of cloth of gold gloriously set out with flowers. There was also given to everyone another Golden Fleece, which was set about with precious stones, and various workmanship according to the utmost skill of each artificer. On it hung a weighty medal of gold, on which were figured the sun and moon in opposition; but on the other side stood this saying, "The light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun shall be seven times lighter than at present." But our former jewels were laid in a little casket, and committed to one of the waiters.
After this the Virgin led us out in our order, where the musicians waited ready at the door, all appareled in red velvet with white guards. After which a door (which I never saw open before) to the Royal winding stairs was unlocked. There the Virgin led us, together with the music, up three hundred and sixty five stairs; there we saw nothing that was not of extremely costly workmanship, full of artifice; and the further we went, the more glorious still was the furniture, until at length at the top we came under a painted arch, where the sixty virgins attended us, all richly appareled. Now as soon as they had bowed to us, and we, as well as we could, had returned our reverence, our musicians were sent away, and must go down the stairs again, the door being shut after them. After this a little bell was tolled; then in came in a beautiful Virgin who brought everyone a wreath of laurel. But our virgins had branches given them.
Meanwhile a curtain was drawn up, where I saw the King and Queen as they sat there in their majesty, and had not the Duchess yesterday so faithfully warned me, I should have forgotten myself, and have equaled this unspeakable glory to Heaven. For apart from the fact that the room glistened with gold and precious stones, the Queen's robes were moreover made so that I was not able to behold them. And whereas before I esteemed anything to be handsome, here all things so much surpassed the rest, as the stars in heaven are elevated.
In the meantime the Virgin came in, and so each of the virgins taking one of us by the hand, with most profound reverence presented us to the King, whereupon the Virgin began to speak thus: "That to honour your Royal Majesties (most gracious King and Queen) these lords here present have ventured here in peril of body and life, your Majesties have reason to rejoice, especially since the greatest part are qualified for the enlarging of your Majesties' Estates and Empire, as you will find by a most gracious and particular examination of each of them. Herewith I desired to have them presented in humility to your Majesties, with most humble suit to discharge myself of this commission of mine, and most graciously to take sufficient information from each of them, concerning both my actions and omissions."
Hereupon she laid down her branch upon the ground. Now it would have been very fitting for one of us to have put in and said something on this occasion, but seeing we were all tongue-tied, at length the old Atlas stepped forward and spoke on the King's behalf:- "Their Royal Majesties do most graciously rejoice at your arrival, and wish that their Royal Grace be assured to all, and every man. And with your administration, gentle Virgin, they are most graciously satisfied, and accordingly a Royal Reward shall therefore be provided for you. Yet it is still their intention that you shall also continue to be with them this day, inasmuch as they have no reason to mistrust you."
Hereupon the Virgin humbly took up the branch again. And so we for the first time were to step aside with our Virgin. This room was square on the front, five times broader than it was long; but towards the West it had a great arch like a porch, wherein in a circle stood three glorious royal thrones, yet the middlemost was somewhat higher than the rest. Now in each throne sat two persons. In the first sat a very ancient King with a grey beard, yet his consort was extraordinarily fair and young. In the third throne sat a black King of middle age, and by him a dainty old matron, not crowned, but covered with a veil. But in the middle sat the two young persons, and though they had likewise wreaths of laurel upon their heads, yet over them hung a large and costly crown. Now although they were not at this time so fair as I had before imagined to myself, yet so it was to be. Behind them on a round form sat for the most part ancient men, yet none of them had any sword or other weapon about him, at which I wondered. Neither saw I any other body-guard, but certain Virgins who were with us the day before, who sat on the sides of the arch.
Here I cannot pass over in silence how the little Cupid flew to and fro there, but for the most part he hovered over and played the wanton about the great crown; sometimes he seated himself between the two lovers, somewhat smiling upon them with his bow. Indeed, sometimes he made as if he would shoot one of us. In brief, this knave was so full of his waggery, that we would not even spare the little birds which flew in multitudes up and down the room, but tormented them all he could. The virgins also had their pastimes with him, but whenever they could catch him, it was not so easy a matter for him to get from them again. Thus this little knave made all the sport and mirth.
Before the Queen stood a small but inexpressibly curious altar, on which lay a book covered with black velvet, a little overlaid with gold. By this stood a small taper in an ivory candlestick. Now although it was very small, yet it burnt continually, and was such that had not Cupid, in sport, now and then puffed upon it, we could not have conceived it to be fire. By this stood a sphere or celestial globe, which turned clearly about by itself. Next to this, a small striking-watch, and by that was a little crystal pipe or syphon-fountain, out of which perpetually ran a clear blood-red liquor. And last of all there was a skull, or death's head; in this was a white serpent, who was of such a length that though she wound about the rest of it in a circle, her tail still remained in one of the eyeholes until her head again entered the other; so she never stirred from her skull, unless it happened that Cupid twitched a little at her, for then she slipped in so suddenly that we all could not choose but marvel at it.
Together with this altar, there were up and down the room wonderful images, which moved themselves as if they had been alive, and had so strange a contrivance that it would be impossible for me to relate it all. Likewise, as we were passing out, there began such a marvellous kind of vocal music, that I could not tell for sure whether it was performed by the virgins who still stayed behind, or by the images themselves. Now we being satisfied for the time being, went away with our virgins, who (the musicians being already present) led us down the winding stairs again, and the door was diligently locked and bolted.
As soon as we had come again into the hall, one of the virgins began: "I wonder, Sister, that you dare hazard yourself amongst so many people."
"My Sister," replied our president, "I am afraid of none so much as of this man," pointing at me.
This speech went to my heart, for I well understood that she mocked at my age, and indeed I was the oldest of them all. Yet she comforted me again with the promise that if I behaved myself well towards her, she would easily rid me of this burden.
Meantime a light meal was again brought in, and everyone's Virgin seated by him; they knew well how to shorten the time with handsome discourses, but what their discourses and sports were I dare not blab out of school. But most of the questions were about the arts, whereby I could easily gather that both young and old were conversant in knowledge. But still it ran in my thoughts how I might become young again, whereupon I was somewhat sadder.
The Virgin perceived this, and therefore began, "I bet anything, if I lie with him tonight, he shall be pleasanter in the morning."
Hereupon they all began to laugh, and although I blushed all over, yet I had to laugh too at my own ill-luck.
Now there was one there who had a mind to return my disgrace upon the Virgin again, so he said, "I hope not only we, but the virgins themselves too, will bear witness on behalf of our brother, that our lady president has promised to be his bedfellow tonight."
"I should be well content with it," replied the Virgin, "if I had no reason to be afraid of my sisters here; there would be no hold with them should I choose the best and handsomest for myself, against their will."
"My Sister," began another, "we find by this that your high office doesn't make you proud; so if with your permission we might divide by lot the lords here present among us for bedfellows, you should with our good will have such a prerogative."
We let this pass for a jest, and again began to discourse together. But our Virgin could not leave tormenting us, and therefore began again. "My lords, what about if we should let fortune decide which of us must lie together tonight?"
"Well," I said, "if it may not be otherwise, we cannot refuse such an offer."
Now because it was concluded to make this trial after the meal, we resolved to sit no longer at table, so we arose, and each one walked up and down with his Virgin.
"No," said the Virgin, "it shall not be so yet, but let us see how fortune will couple us," upon which we were separated.
But now first arose a dispute how the business should be carried out; but this was only a premeditated device, for the Virgin instantly made the proposal that we should mix ourselves together in a ring, and that she beginning to count the seventh from herself, was to be content with the following seventh, whether it were a virgin, or a man. For our parts we were not aware of any craft, and therefore permitted it to be so; but when we thought we had mingled ourselves very well, the virgins nevertheless were so clever that each one knew her station beforehand. The Virgin began to reckon; the seventh from her was another virgin, the third seventh a virgin likewise, and this happened so long till (to our amazement) all the virgins came forth, and none of us was hit. Thus we poor pitiful wretches remained standing alone, and were moreover forced to suffer ourselves to be jeered at, and to confess we were very handsomely tricked. In short, whoever had seen us in our order, might sooner have expected the sky to fall, than that it should never have come to our turn. With this our sport was at an end, and we had to satisfy ourselves with the Virgin's waggery.
In the interim, the little wanton Cupid came in to us too. But we could not sport ourselves with him enough, because he presented himself on behalf of their Royal Majesties, and delivered us a health (from them) out of a golden cup, and had to call our virgins to the King, declaring also that he could at this time tarry no longer with them. So with a due return of our most humble thanks we let him fly off again.
Now because (in the interim) the mirth had begun to fall to my consort's feet - and the virgins were not sorry to see it - they quickly started up a civil dance, which I beheld with pleasure rather than taking part; for my mercurialists were so ready with their postures, as if they had long been of the trade. After a few dances our president came in again, and told us how the artists and students had offered themselves to their Royal Majesties, for their honour and pleasure, to act a merry comedy before their departure; and if we thought it good to be present at this, and to wait upon their Royal Majesties to the House of the Sun, it would be acceptable to them, and they would most graciously acknowledge it. Hereupon in the first place we returned our most humble thanks for the honour vouchsafed us; not only this, but moreover we most submissively tendered our humble service.
This the Virgin related again, and presently brought word to attend their Royal Majesties (in our order) in the gallery, where we were soon led; and we did not stay long there, for the Royal Procession was just ready, yet without any music at all. The unknown Duchess who was with us yesterday went in front, wearing a small and costly coronet, appareled in white satin. She carried nothing but a small crucifix which was made of a pearl, and this very day wrought between the young King and his Bride. After her went the six aforementioned virgins in two ranks, who carried the King's jewels belonging to the little altar. Next to these came the three Kings. The Bridegroom was in the midst of them in a plain dress, but in black satin, after the Italian fashion. He had on a small round black hat, with a little pointed black feather, which he courteously took off to us, so to signify his favour towards us. We bowed ourselves to him, as also to the first, as we had been instructed before. After the Kings came the three Queens, two of whom were richly dressed, but she in the middle was likewise all in black, and Cupid held up her train. After this, intimation was given to us to follow, and after us the Virgins, till at last old Atlas brought up the rear.
In such procession, through many stately walks, we at length came to the House of the Sun, there next to the King and Queen, upon a richly furnished scaffold, to behold the previously ordained comedy. We indeed, though separated, stood on the right hand of the Kings, but the virgins stood on the left, except those to whom the Royal Ensigns were committed. To them was allotted their own place at the top of all. But the rest of the attendants had to stand below between the columns, and to be content with that.
Now because there are many remarkable passages in this comedy, I will not omit to go over it briefly.
First of all a very ancient King came on, with some servants; before his throne was brought a little chest, with mention being made that it was found upon the water. Now it being opened, there appeared in it a lovely baby, together with some jewels, and a small letter of parchment sealed and superscribed to the King, which the King therefore opened; and having read it, wept, and then declared to his servants how injuriously the King of the Moors had deprived his aunt of her country, and had extinguished all the royal seed even to his infant, with the daughter of which country he had now the intention of matching his son. Hereupon he swore to maintain perpetual enmity with the Moor and his allies, and to revenge this upon them; and with this he commanded that the child should be tenderly nursed, and to make preparation against the Moor. Now this provision, and the disciplining of the young lady (who after she had grown up a little was committed to an ancient tutor) took up all the first act, with many very fine and laudable sports besides.
In the interlude a lion and griffin were set at one another to fight, and the lion got the victory, which was also a pretty sight.
In the second act, the Moor, a very black treacherous fellow, came on too. He, having with vexation understood that his murder had been discovered, and that a little lady was craftily stolen from him too, began thereupon to consult how by stratagem he might be able to encounter so powerful an adversary; on which he was eventually advised by certain fugitives who fled to him because of a famine. So the young lady, contrary to everyone's expectations, fell again into his hands; he would have been likely to have caused her to be slain if he had not been wonderfully deceived by his own servants. Thus this act was concluded too, with a marvellous triumph of the Moor.
In the third act a great army of the King's party was raised against the Moor, and put under the conduct of an ancient valiant knight, who fell into the Moor's country, till at length he forcibly rescued the young lady from the tower, and appareled her anew. After this in a trice they erected a glorious scaffold, and placed their young lady upon it. Presently twelve royal ambassadors came, amongst whom the aforementioned knight made a speech, alleging that the King his most gracious lord had not only delivered her from death earlier, and even caused her to be royally brought up until now (though she had not behaved herself altogether as became her). But moreover his Royal Majesty had, before others, elected her to be a spouse for the young lord his son, and most graciously desired that the said espousals might actually be executed, if they would be sworn to his Majesty upon the following articles. Hereupon out of a patent he caused certain glorious conditions to be read, which if it were not too long, would be well worthy of being recounted here. In brief, the young lady took an oath inviolably to observe the same, returning thanks too in a most seemly way for such a high grace. Whereupon they began to sing to the praise of God, of the King, and the young lady, and so for the time being departed.
For sport, in the meantime, the four beasts of Daniel, as he saw them in the vision and as he described them at length, were brought in, all of which had its certain signification.
In the fourth act the young lady was again restored to her lost kingdom, and crowned, and for a while, in this array, conducted about the place with extraordinary joy. After this many and various ambassadors presented themselves, not only to wish her prosperity, but also to behold her glory. Yet it was not for long that she preserved her integrity, but soon began again to look wantonly about her, and to wink at the ambassadors and lords; in this she truly acted her part to the life.
These manners of hers were soon known to the Moor, who would by no means neglect such an opportunity, and because her steward did not pay sufficient attention to her, she was easily blinded with great promises, so that she did not keep good confidence with her King, but privately submitted herself entirely to the disposal of the Moor. Hereupon the Moor made haste, and having (by her consent) got her into his hands, he gave her good words until all her kingdom had subjected itself to him. After which, in the third scene of this act, he caused her to be led forth, and first to be stripped stark naked, and then to be bound to a post upon a scurvy wooden scaffold, and well scourged, and at last sentenced to death. This was so woeful a spectacle, that it made the eyes of many run over. Hereupon like this, naked as she was, she was cast into prison, there to await her death, which was to be procured by poison, which actually did not kill her, but made her leprous all over. Thus this act was for the most part lamentable.
Between acts, they brought forth Nebuchadnezzar's image, which was adorned with all manner of arms, on the head, breast, belly, legs and feet, and the like, of which more shall be said in the future explanation.
In the fifth act the young King was told of all that had passed between the Moor and his future spouse; he first interceded with his father for her, entreating that she might not be left in that condition; which his father having agreed to, ambassadors were despatched to comfort her in her sickness and captivity, but yet also to make her see her inconsiderateness. But she still would not receive them, but consented to be the Moor's concubine, which was also done, and the young King was acquainted with it.
After this came a band of fools, each of which brought with him a cudgel; within a trice they made a great globe of the world, and soon undid it again. It was a fine sportive fantasy.
In the sixth act the young King resolved to do battle with the Moor, which was also done. And although the Moor was discomforted, yet all held the young King too to be dead. At length he came to himself again, released his spouse, and committed her to his steward and chaplain. The first of these tormented her greatly; then the tables were turned, and the priest was so insolently wicked that he had to be above all, until this was reported to the young King; who hastily despatched one who broke the neck of the priest's mightiness, and adorned the bride in some measure for the nuptials.
After the act a vast artificial elephant was brought forth. He carried a great tower with musicians, which was also well pleasing to all.
In the last act the bridegroom appeared with such pomp as cannot be believed, and I was amazed how it was brought to pass. The bride met him in similar solemnity, whereupon all the people cried out LONG LIVE THE BRIDEGROOM! LONG LIVE THE BRIDE! - so that by this comedy they also congratulated our King and Queen in the most stately manner, which (as I well observed) pleased them most extraordinarily well.
At length they walked about the stage in this procession, till at last they began to sing altogether as follows:
This lovely time
Bringeth much joy
With the king's wedding,
So sing ye all
That it resound
And gladness be to him
who giveth it to us.
The beauteous bride
Whom we have long awaited
Shall be betrothed to him,
And we have won
Whereafter we did strive
O happy he
Who looketh to himself.
The elders good
Are bidden now,
For Long they were in care,
In honour multiply
That thousands arise
From your own blood
After this thanks were returned, and the comedy was finished with joy, and the particular enjoyment of the Royal Persons, so (the evening also drawing near already) they departed together in their aforementioned order.
But we were to attend the Royal Persons up the winding stairs into the aforementioned hall, where the tables were already richly furnished, and this was the first time that we were invited to the King's table. The little altar was placed in the midst of the hall, and the six royal ensigns previously mentioned were laid upon it. At this time the young King behaved himself very graciously towards us, but yet he could not be heartily merry; although he now and then discoursed a little with us, yet he often sighed, at which the little Cupid only mocked, and played his waggish tricks. The old King and Queen were very serious; only the wife of one of the ancient Kings was gay enough, the reason for which I did not yet understand.
During this time, the Royal Persons took up the first table, at the second only we sat. At the third, some of the principal virgins placed themselves. The rest of the virgins, and men, all had to wait. This was performed with such state and solemn stillness that I am afraid to say very much about it. But I cannot leave untouched upon here, how all the Royal Persons, before the meal, attired themselves in snow-white glittering garments, and so sat down at the table. Over the table hung the great golden crown, the precious stones of which would have sufficiently illuminated the hall without any other light. However, all the lights were kindled at the small taper upon the altar; what the reason was I did not know for sure. But I took very good notice of this, that the young King frequently sent meat to the white serpent upon the little altar, which caused me to muse.
Almost all the prattle at this banquet was made by little Cupid, who could not leave us (and me, indeed, especially) untormented. He was perpetually producing some strange matter. However, there was no considerable mirth, all went silently on; from which I, myself, could imagine some great imminent peril. For there was no music at all heard; but if we were demanded anything, we had to give short round answers, and so let it rest. In short, all things had so strange a face, that the sweat began to trickle down all over my body; and I am apt to believe that the most stout-hearted man alive would then have lost his courage.
Supper being now almost ended, the young King commanded the book to be reached him from the little altar. This he opened, and caused it once again to be propounded to us by an old man, whether we resolved to abide by him in prosperity and adversity; which we having consented to with trembling, he further had us asked, whether we would give him our hands on it, which, when we could find no evasion, had to be so. Hereupon one after another arose, and with his own hand wrote himself down in this book.
When this also had been performed, the little crystal fountain, together with a very small crystal glass, was brought near, out of which all the Royal Persons drank one after another. Afterwards it was held out to us too, and so to all persons; and this was called the Draught of Silence. Hereupon all the Royal Persons presented us their hands, declaring that if we did not now stick to them, we should nevermore from now on see them; which truly made our eyes run over. But our president engaged herself and promised a great deal on our behalf, which gave them satisfaction.
Meantime a little bell was tolled, at which all the Royal Persons became so incredibly bleak, that we were ready to despair utterly. They quickly took off their white garments again, and put on entirely black ones. The whole hall likewise was hung about with black velvet, the floor was covered with black velvet, with which also the ceiling above was overspread (all this being prepared beforehand). After that the tables were also removed, and all seated themselves round about upon the form, and we also put on black habits. In came our president again, who had before gone out, and she brought with her six black taffeta scarves, with which she bound the six Royal Persons' eyes. Now when they could no longer see, six covered coffins were immediately brought in by the servants, and set down in the hall; also a low black seat was placed in the middle. Finally, there came in a very coal-black, tall man, who bore in his hand a sharp axe. Now after the old King had first been brought to the seat, his head was instantly whipped off, and wrapped in a black cloth; but the blood was received into a great golden goblet, and placed with him in this coffin that stood by; which, being covered, was set aside. Thus it went with the rest also, so that I thought it would at length have come to me too, but it did not. For as soon as the six Royal Persons were beheaded, the black man went out again; another followed after him, and beheaded him too just before the door, and brought back his head together with the axe, which were laid in a little chest. This indeed seemed to me a bloody Wedding, but because I could not tell what was yet to happen, for the time being I had to suspend my understanding until I had further resolved things. For the Virgin too, seeing that some of us were faint-hearted and wept, bid us be content.
"For", she said to us, "The life of these now stands in your hands, and if you follow me, this death shall make many alive."
With this she intimated that we should go to sleep, and trouble ourselves no further on their part, for they should be sure to have their due right. And so she bade us all goodnight, saying that she must watch the dead bodies this night. We did this, and were each of us conducted by our pages into our lodgings. My page talked with me of sundry and various matters (which I still remember very well) and gave me cause enough to admire his understanding. But his intention was to lull me to sleep, which at last I well observed; so I made as though I was fast asleep, but no sleep came into my eyes, and I could not put the beheaded out of my mind.
Now my lodging was directly over against the great lake, so that I could easily look upon it, the windows being near to the bed. About midnight, as soon as it had struck twelve, suddenly I saw a great fire on the lake, so out of fear I quickly opened the window to see what would become of it. Then from afar I saw seven ships making forward, which were all full of lights. Above each of them on the top hovered a flame that passed to and fro, and sometimes descended right down, so that I could easily judge that it must be the spirits of the beheaded. Now these ships gently approached land, and each of them had no more than one mariner. As soon as they had come to shore, I saw our Virgin with a torch going towards the ship, after whom the six covered coffins were carried, together with the little chest, and each of them was secretly laid in a ship.
So I awakened my page too, who greatly thanked me, for, having run up and down a lot all day, he might have slept through this altogether, though he knew quite well about it. Now as soon as the coffins were laid in the ships, all the lights were extinguished, and the six flames passed back together over the lake, so that there was no more than one light in each ship for a watch. There were also some hundreds of watchmen who had encamped themselves on the shore, and sent the Virgin back again into the castle; she carefully bolted everything up again, so that I could judge that there was nothing more to be done this night, but that we must await the day.
So we again took ourselves to rest. And I only of all my company had a chamber towards the lake, and saw this, so that now I was also extremely weary, and so fell asleep in my manifold speculations.
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