Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Max and Dürer

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII. 1876–79.


Max and Dürer

By Count Anton Alexander von Auersperg (Anastasius Grün) (1806–1876)

Translated by J. O. Sargent

PRINCE, soldier-lad, knight, and swindler in the city of Augsburg meet,

In the hall the councillors brawling, and the people in the street;

While want is abroad in the land, here crowds in the taverns riot;

This thing, what do you call it? It is the Imperial Diet.

Max stood at the window gazing—on the tumultuous scene,

When entered in homely doublet a man of modest mien;

“Why, Master Dürer, God bless you!” said Max with a joyous start,

“How comes my Apelles to Babel? To the Diet how cometh Art?”

“I ’ve only one favor to beg, my lord,” the modest master said,

“And may it be kindly granted,” and he humbly bowed his head;

“I would once more paint your portrait, and make of it, in sooth,

The double of its original, in honesty and truth.”

The emperor in sadness his hand to the artist extends:

“With me ’t is the dusk of evening, and before dark night descends

You ’d be glad to show the landscape in the shadows of twilight drest,—

Well, friend, if that ’s your desire, I cheerfully grant your request.”

Placing the palette and canvas, the painter his pencil took:

“Yet one thing I pray, my emperor, away with that austere look!”

Max’s eye, fixed on the canvas, with a sudden emotion flashes,

“As dark as the face of your canvas, my thoughts are of dust and ashes.”

The painter plies his pencil. Mouth, cheeks, nose, looks are there,

And the emperor for laughing falls backward in his chair:

“Ha, ha, there, how defiantly the faithful canvas shows,

As like, as in a looking-glass, my formidable nose.”

And color on color brightens, as blossoms in spring-time blow,

And the life and breath of spring-time through the circle of colors flow;

Out bloom the colors caressing the lips with a genial smile,

Enthroning with sober earnestness the sombre brow the while.

“Ah, there is the man entire, the mansion true and old,

And at one of its windows Sorrow, with its chill, sad glance, behold;

Joy stands nodding and smiling at this other window of mine,

For this house nothing remains now but to hang out the crown as a sign!


“God bless thee, brother Albert! Pray with my greeting call

Upon Hans Sachs at Nuremburg, the man of rhyme and awl;

When again he writes a poem, a requiem let it be;

You ’ll soon hear a king who is dear to you is dead, say this from me.”

So speaks the Prince, and sadly looks the honest man in the eye,

And long with a mild expression regards him silently;

The crowned and gilded portrait then contemplates for a while,

And smiles on it as one who would rather weep than smile!