From The Autobiography of Johannes Butzbach, A Wandering Scholar of the Fifteenth Century, [Hodoporicon] Translated from the German by Robert Francis Seybolt and Paul Monroe; Ann Arbor, Michigan: Edwards Brothers, Inc., 1933; pp. v-viii, 1-42.



to the little travel diary of Brother John of Miltenberg in Laach, of the Benedictine Order, to his brother Philipp Drunck, student at Münster in Westphalia

This long time, dear brother Philipp, you have expressed the wish, and according to the letters which certain students have brought from Münster, you still wish, that I should write in German for you a short description of my wanderings, so that frequent reading of it may keep you from forgetting your mother tongue, and that through the example of my misery, which has increased since childhood, you may be able to have more patience under the discipline of school life in a strange land.1 So, you make it necessary for me to concern myself anew with things long since gone by, and which I would much rather forget, so that, in the words of the Apostle, I may reach out toward that which lies before me. By complying with your request, I expose myself to the scorn of mature, serious men who will think me a childish or boastful, insolent fellow, seeking reputation because I undertake to write and send my own story, with all its follies, to distant and foreign parts, as if it were that of an important, famous, or holy man. I may meet a great many judges with you, since you have there fellow students who are, without doubt, far better versed in the humanities than I. But although I know very well that I shall not lack critics, I would rather put a stop to your teasing than let the writing go and thereby forfeit your brotherly love. Your love and respect for me have been so great, and your obedience so absolute, vi that at a nod from me, although you were only a boy, you left home, brothers, sisters, friends, even your parents. Although you had hardly crossed the threshold of our father’s house before, you have journeyed thirty miles, to visit me, and from here farther into Westphalia, where you now study the liberal arts. I am ready now to grant your wish, and in your exile, which you endure there at my advice, I may seek, in default of material help, to inspire you spiritually at least with the few things that I may be able to recall from my experiences now long past and almost forgotten. At your urgent request, I shall tell my story as briefly as possible. It is indeed pleasant when, after many storms and adventures, one finds oneself in harbor, to tell of one’s lucky escape. One may fittingly reward oneself for the pains, in the strict earnestness of our way of life, by refreshing oneself a little with so light a task, as the Attic poet has said: “We are pleasantly moved by the picture of earnestness joined with humor.” It affords even more pleasure when one can make a change in one’s studies; indeed, where this necessary refreshment through variety is lacking, perseverance is impossible. How truly another says: “You must rejoice, at times, between anxieties!” That you may learn, more rapidly and with more zest and pleasure, to use Latin, in which, in particular, as you must not forget, the goal of your sojourn there rests, I shall endeavor to give you the narrative in my simple, artless, and crude Latin, instead of in our High German mother tongue, as you requested,. Besides, as you know, I have almost forgotten it; at least I can no longer speak it as purely as our country people, as I have lived ever since childhood in various foreign regions. Moreover, I consider that, if you wish to become a good Latin scholar quickly, it is necessary for you to practice reading, writing, and especially speaking Latin more than German; even if your Latin for the present is not good. As the saying goes, “He who has gone to school speaks nothing but Latin.”


But enough of this; I explained these things to you hastily, when you were here. I shall now tell you about my long wandering in foreign parts, and of the great hardships which I experienced; so that, in considering them, you will be able to bear yours more easily.


1  Jahn O. “Bildungsgang eines deutschen Gelehrten am Ausgang des 15. Jarhunderts”, in Aus der Alterthumswissenschaft; populäre Aufsätze (Bonn, 1868), 405-20.



Chapter I

How little Hans was brought by his aunt and sent to school at the age of six

In 1478, the first year of my life, I was taken from my mother by my father’s sister, because my mother was expecting another child, our sister Margaret. My aunt, who had no children, took me as her own, and for a number of years, until her death, cared for me most lovingly and tenderly. When I was six years old, she let me go to school, in order to get the rudiments of learning, although I could hardly speak properly. She was a very sensible woman, and may have thought of the advice of that poet, which she probably heard at some time:

“If you are wise, my son, study in earliest youth.
Tomorrow will be too late; study today, then, my boy.”

Even then, parents thought that boys ought to be occupied with study, so that they would not loiter idly about the streets, where they so easily become corrupted by the knavery of evil fellows, and tainted by that vice from the bonds of which they are hardly able to free themselves when they come to years of understanding. For a vessel long retains the odor of whatever is first put into it, as Flaccus says; and as the proverb runs, “The child [is] father to the man.”2 According to the philosopher, the mind of a child resembles an unused page; first, the impressions remain most firmly fixed thereon. Surely, nothing can be more noble and necessary than knowledge and virtue, the elements of which should be impressed upon the child in his earliest years, while 2 his mind is still receptive. If the rod of the schoolmaster threatens him, so much more rapidly will they learn to practice the good and shun the wild. Often when they come to school, they have already lived among dissolute companions, and even in their early youth have seen and heard evil, by which their hearts are sullied. Mosaic tradition says: “The senses and thoughts of man are inclined toward evil from youth up.”3 What anyone has accustomed himself to be in his youth generally remains in adult life, unless he happens to receive especially careful instruction or assistance from heaven. For that reason the wise man rightly says: “The young man will not change his ways when he becomes an old man.”4 Therefore let nothing shameful to hear or see cross the threshold of that sanctuary in which a child lives. Dissolute women and the evening songs of lovers must be kept far from it. You must be very reserved and respectful before a child if you are about to do anything shameful; you must not despise the years of a child; especially when you would sin, your little child must be far from you. The wise woman had remembered this and many other things, from pagan and Catholic writers, which she had heard from the preachers, concerning the bringing up of children. She preferred to see me in school, away from frivolous servants, rather than let me remain at home all day.


2  Horace, Epist., I, ii, 69-70.

3   Genesis, viii, 21.

4  Proverbs, xxii, 6.


Chapter II

How little Hans was first brought to school by means of cakes and pastry, then by means of the rod, and how he later lost his foster mother by death

I was taken to school by my aunt to learn reading, and to be protected from idleness and seduction. At first she made me happy to go by giving me cakes; it was just about Lent, the feast of St. Gregory, when, as has long been the custom, children are first sent to school. She treated me well at the beginning. According to Horace, “Kindly teachers give the boys cake at first, for which they readily study the elements of knowledge.”5 But when the cakes, figs, raisins, and almonds, with which they try to entice beginning school children, ceases with Lent, it seemed to my aunt that I had lost all desire for learning. Now, thought she, the result must be obtained by fear rather than coaxing. So, when I did not want to go, she saw to it that I was driven to school by sharp switches. Formerly, she had enticed me there by means of fruit and pastry. In this manner, I had been going to school for almost four years, and had been brought up by my foster mother with all care and love, when she was visited by a sickness, and it pleased God to let her depart this life. Oh, what grief there was among her friends and neighbors! How great was the lamentation of the widows and orphans, to whom she had daily given such plentiful alms! Indeed, she had such a large amount of property that very few, who were not well acquainted with her circumstances, would have thought that she was of so insignificant a family as ours. Born in the little town of Butzbach in the district of Buchonia, she had come to 4 the town as a stranger, and God so ordained that she should be married to a very influential man. Throughout her life, her property increased remarkably, and seemed to grow larger from day to day. Her husband did not owe these blessings to his own unaided efforts (he was a handicraftsman); much more justly might he attribute them to the prudent household management and virtuous life of his wife. Indeed, he soon had to see his household fall to pieces when, after the death of his first wife, he married a somewhat frivolous young person as different from her in age as in character. Where he had been well-to-do and happy with the first, he suddenly came to grief and poverty with this one, because of her wastefulness. Many were astonished, but considered that it had overtaken him as a judgment of God because, on account of his foolish love for his second wife, he had not fulfilled the last wish of the first, through whose wisdom and piety God had so blessed him with worldly possessions. Up to this very day, he has not carried out her last will and testament. Some time ago he died without having discharged this commission, and left his daughter such an accumulation of debts that, after selling his effects and satisfying his creditors, she hardly possessed the four bare walls of her house. But when I speak of the first wife, my aunt! How kind she was to the poor! how well she knew how to increase the prosperity of the home! how genuinely pious she was, that wonderful woman! How God-fearing she was, with all her daily increasing wealth! How often, I remember, when her husband was away from home, and she had a little maid sleeping with her, she spent the night in prayer rather than in sleep, or she gave herself no rest at all throughout the night, in order to instruct me in the fear of God, in His bidding, and in the way to pray, and in good habits. Yes, if I had had such a mother up to the present time, I should never have known such misery as I shall describe in this little book. Her love for me was so great that people said she did not look upon me at 5 all as a nephew, but fostered and cherished me with the very best, as if I were her own tender child. Miserable me! I ate rolls, then; not long afterwards I was to pick up crumbs from the coarsest bread, under the tables of strange masters. Then, I appeared before our friends with red shoes and pretty clothes; shortly after, I was to spend my days as an outcast among unknown people, — like a fertile field which at first lets the seeds entrusted to it grown up in the sunshine, to the joy of its owner, but afterwards fills his eyes with care when it lies there, a waste place, chilled by the frost. It was like this with me and my aunt, or, as she preferred to be called, my mother. As long as she lived, I blossomed, a fine boy, but soon after a rough garment was to cover me. There was little lacking to keep people from applying to me those ironic words of the poet: “The king and queen wish to take this boy as a son-in-law.” Roses grew all along my path, as the same satirist says. Quickly and happily the blossoming years sped by for the boy. Without knowing how fortunate I was, I lived, and never considered how short is the life of mortals. But enough of this wandering! That I may now continue my story, with this recollection of happy childhood, I commend my good mother to God, and hope that all goes well with her in the fatherland where she now dwells.


5  Horace, Satires, I, i, 25-26.


Chapter III

How it came about that Hans was given over to vagrancy with a wandering scholar

After my foster mother’s death, I was taken home by my parents, but I had to set out for school again just as before. To acknowledge my childish lack of judgment, it gave me no little comfort, at the death of my aunt, to imagine that I was now exempt from school. But when, as formerly, I was admonished to study, against my will, I began to play truant. I hid myself in some sort of boat on the bank of the Main, where I remained anxious and watchful until school was out and it was time to go home. Then, when the schoolmaster, whom I shunned like fire, questioned me concerning my absence, I used to answer that my parents kept me at home because of certain work, and that I had had to do this or that. But once, on a Friday, when I was again asked the cause of my truancy and was completely confused because of a terrible dread of flogging, I stammered out the poor excuse that I had to put the meat on the fire and perhaps something else of a similar nature such as having to do some unusual work on this day. Then I had to take the long-deserved whipping. I had not taken into account what day it was. The lie was as clear as the day. The stripes which I got from the whipping after that conviction, showed for days. After that, I became a little more discreet, and forgot to play truant, especially as long as the pain of the flogging endured, and until my back was healed. But soon the earlier beatings were forgotten, and one evening as I came home, not from school, but from another direction, from the boat, and could not, as usual, repeat to my parents the Latin vocabulary for the day, they were perplexed and accused me of playing truant and of telling lies. They told me that my words were the same as those of a few days before. Then, when 7 some of my schoolmates, questioned on the matter, made me out a liar, my mother took me by the collar and dragged me to school. As we entered, the schoolmaster cried to an assistant teacher (the headmaster, who was more reasonable, was just leaving): “See there, our incorrigible little boy! for his running away you may beat him severely, as he deserves!” That is what he said, but I think he did not know just what he said. Wrathfully the hireling, as we called him, seized me, stripped my clothes from me and bound me to a post; and then the harsh man exerted all his strength to beat me without mercy. My mother had hardly left the school, when she heard me screaming and wailing so terribly that she turned quickly, came to the door, and when my torturer lessened his blows a little, shouted at him to stop. But he, as though deaf to her cries, did not stop, but struck all the harder; meanwhile the whole school had to sing a song. When he stopped attacking me so savagely, my mother forcefully opened the door, and rushed in. But when she saw me bound to a post and so horribly cut up by the heavy blows and covered with blood, she fell swooning to the floor and almost died in that condition. The students raised her from the floor, and when she had somewhat recovered her strength, she attacked the schoolmaster with harsh imprecations, and declared that from that hour I should never enter the school; she would continue to appeal to the city council until she brought it about that no burgher’s child need ever again enter such a school. And so it turned out. On that very day, when news of the occurrence reached the city council, he was driven from the school; and, a Bachelor of Erfurt, he became a town servant or bailiff of Miltenberg. Thus it justly happened that a man who could not control his anger when dealing with children, got the opportunity to use it on malefactors and mutineers. Although I cannot but think that he got his deserts, still when I was in our native town some time ago, and he earnestly and humbly sought my pardon, I forgave him in reverent 8 recollection of the scouring of our Lord Jesus Christ. While this was happening to me, our neighbor’s son, a grown student, returned from a foreign school. He ingratiated himself with my father, and requested that I be put to study with him. He promised that, elsewhere, with him, I would, in a short time, make greater progress in learning that I would here in years.6 My father’s consent was easily obtained. Soon, books, and clothing were provided; and whatever my needs required, for some time to come, was given him without further discussion. All these preparations filled me with indescribable joy; he was very friendly, and knew how to keep my happiness constantly at its highest pitch. As we stood there, ready for the journey, I clapped my hands for joy; my delight knew no bounds. I believed implicitly (what I had often heard in jest) that the hedges were made of little sausages, and that all the house topes were covered with cakes. But I, poor soul, was soon to prove the truth of the opposite.


6  See Appendix, 150. Cf. also Thomas Platter’s experience with the bacchant Paul (Monroe, P. Thomas Platter and the educational Renaissance of the sixteenth century. New York, 1904. p. 94): “he promised that he would take me with him, and in Germany would place me in a school.”


Chapter IV

How Hans took leave of his family

I said good-by manfully; the weeping of my brothers, sisters, and other relatives made no impression on me, since I had in mind that wily scholar’s dazzling representations of the life outside where Fridays were better than Sundays at home. When someone asked when I expected to return, I replied “after ten years, when I become a great man, and such an illustrious doctor that everyone will point at me and say: ‘there he is.’ ” Several smiled at that and said: “See to it that you do not lose your courage within ten days, and that your plans do not bring you to grief so that you will count each day a year.” But all this fell upon deaf ears. In high spirits, I shook hands with my parents in parting. My father sorrowfully thought to himself that he would probably never see me again; tears flowed from his eyes, and he gazed for a while, and then embraced me, covered me with heartfelt kisses, and was unable to say a word on account of his uncontrollable weeping. Then my tears came for the first time, and I began to discover how sorrowful the parting of beloved ones is. The scholar no sooner saw this than he began to fear lest through my love for my parents, I should beg to stay at home. He turned anxiously to my father and sought to comfort him with the following words: “Friend Conrad, do not weep, do not be so unhappy; you have nothing to fear for your son. I trust, if we are alive, in two or three years you will see him again, happy, in good health, and well-informed, and properly treated by me.” Sobbingly my father replied: “If it is God’s will, may your hope be fulfilled. Otherwise, this protracted illness of mine will compel me to depart this life before he returns. In God’s name, and in that of your parents, I entreat you, my dear friend, to take him under your careful protection, in health and in sickness, and never forsake him. If you are obliged 10 to spend more than I have given you, I shall gladly reimburse you, or, in case God calls me away in the meantime, my dear wife here, or my other relatives, will do so after my death. Anything, so that in the time of need, which I pray you may escape, you do not forsake him!” He promised him, with many more assurances, to be faithful, and pledged it with a firm clasp of the hand.


Chapter V

How John received from his father good counsel and admonition for the journey

Then my father turned to me and, in a sorrowful voice, gave me good counsel and a last farewell. Often interrupted by deep, painful sobs, he spoke, in brief, about as follows: “See, my dearest, oldest son, the hour has come when you must go far from us for the sake of your education. None of us can take care of you any longer, except this man, to whose protection I now entrust you. Neither I, who will perhaps never see you again, nor your mother, nor any of our family can stand beside you any longer, I commend you to God; keep Him before you always, with fear and love. Every morning, when you rise, with pious thought give Him heartfelt thanks for His protection, and entreat Him mercifully to keep you from all troubles of body and soul, during the day. Do not fail to do the same at night, when you go to bed. I pray you, in all your prayers, to ask always that salvation be granted me, a sinner, and your family. Avoid evil company, hate lying, and the habit of swearing. Never steal from a stranger, nor have anything that is not your own. Be silent, but if anyone asks you a question, do not be stupid; learn rather to answer, in a few respectful words, according to the truth as you know it. Be not a bearer of tales, nor a slanderer, and do not blame others too easily, so that you may not be hated by those with whom you live. Listen much, and say little, and take care that you do not inquire into things, or wish to know things, that do not concern you. Have respect for your elders, honor the clergy, love your teacher and obey him in all things. Wherever you go, show yourself submissive, with humility and assiduity, not only to the master of the house but also to the children and the family. In that way you will win their good will; when your 12 money gives out, if they are kindly disposed toward you, it will be easy for you to ask them for some of the necessities of life. Keep your heart pure in the fear of the Lord; devote yourself zealously to the Mother of God and to your saints; and besides these saints, honor your guardian angel; may he bring you safely home. Take care that you never forget God, either in good fortune or bad. Go to church gladly each day, and devoutly honor the relics of the saints, and endeavor often, through pious entreaties, to win their intercession with God. Hear mass and also the word of God, with the resolution of following it, and keep it diligently in mind. Also keep clean as to body and clothes, that people may be pleased to look upon you. Do not give yourself up to effeminacy, boisterousness, mockery, tricks or foul speech, and do not go about with such as take pleasure therein. Apply yourself with all zeal to the pursuit of knowledge, for the acquisition of which you are sent forth; and as you make advances, you must daily solicit God in fervent humble prayers, and be ceaselessly engaged in fulfilling His commands.” When he had said this and more of similar nature, he took a jug of wine, made the sign of the cross over it, and said: “Take it, my dearest son, and, as a fitting conclusion, drink with me, the blessing of St. John.” When I asked him to take it first, he would not drink. Then when he had drunk after me, he handed the jug back to me, so that I might take it to my mother and then to my brothers, sisters, and other relatives. When each had sipped from it, he cordially invited my teacher, who now took his place beside me, to drink also. When he had done so, my father said: “Farewell, my friend, and let my son be to you as your own heart; associate with him in good will, love, and friendship; train him faithfully in good habits, and knowledge, for your parents’ sakes, whom I shall always remember, and through whose love I appeal to you now and forever.” The other replied: “You may be satisfied in that respect. I will always care for your 13 son as diligently as for myself.” Then my father: “Ah, do but as you promise.” The other answered: “Have no doubt of it.” After this my father came to me, embraced and kissed me, took my right hand, drew me to his breast with his left, and said these last words: “God bless you, my dear son, and when you have improved yourself in knowledge and virtue, may He deign to call you to His service, and choose you as our intercessor with Him,” and then again: “Farewell in the Lord Jesus, may He make you eternally blessed among us.” At these words he shed the bitterest of tears, and turned to go to the church to commend us to God. When he had departed, we took up our bundles, and after farewell was said to all, the scholar turned his steps toward the gate. With slow steps, I followed with my mother. My little brothers and sisters, with a number of my comrades, escorted me to the gate. Here we said farewell once more, and they went home again. But my mother went further with us up the street, and, like my father, gave me good advice, broken by deep sobs.


Chapter VI

How his mother went part of the way with Hans and parted from him most sorrowfully

The scholar foresaw that I would be dissuaded by my mother’s weeping, and therefore said to her: “Dear mother, do not be so distressed. God willing, I shall soon send you word how we are and where you can visit us. I shall not go farther than Nürnberg, with him; and from there our tradespeople come every day with horses and freight, and they can certainly carry greetings from you to us and from us to you. So you may be comforted on your son’s account, and be satisfied for the best. Therefore, I beg you, go home and comfort your sick and sorrowful husband. The sun is already setting, and we have further to go to our inn than you toward home; let us, then, move faster on our way.” Then, having parted from the scholar, she hurried after him when he had gone but a few steps, and secretly pressed into his hand a few silver pennies. She then took a last farewell of me, pressed me to her heart in a close embrace and kissed me. She commended me to our Master and his holy Mother, and let me go. Now, when the time for the final parting arrived, what a sorrow and lamentation came over me! What a stream of tears flowed down my cheeks! What deep sighs that almost broke our hearts! What bitter sobbing on the part of both! I weep, and she weeps; I sob, she overflows with tears, so that even a stone must have been moved to pity. Oh, how many times each looked at the other, as long as the direction of the road permitted us to see each other. What a bitter pain when a turn in the road cut off our view! Then, for the first time, I began to feel filial love for my parents, when I could no longer express it to them. Yes, then for the first time I began to realize how great is the parents’ never-failing love for the child; and then learned how painful is the parting of those who 15 love each other. Parted so that neither saw the other; yes, so that we could no longer see the home town. We traveled two hard miles to the little town of Kulsheim, and there, throughout the night, I wept inconsolably. I continually called for my mother and refused to be comforted, so that, on that account, I incurred, to no slight extent, the scholar’s ill will.


Chapter VII

How sad it must seem to be parted from God

From this, my dear Philipp, we may draw the following lesson. While indeed a parting from parents, or friends, or other loved ones, who are near and dear to us here below, is ever so sad, and causes great grief; how much sadder must be that parting, never to meet again, which comes to man when relentless death separates the body from the soul, which was formerly bound to it with firm inner bonds such as never existed between two people! But how sad, yes, most bitter of all, must that parting undoubtedly be, through which a sinful soul, because of its sins, by the verdict of the sternest judge, is parted eternally by the widest of gulfs, not from an earthly father or mother, but from our highest God, the creator of all things. If we escape this separation, we must endure the first-mentioned partings. In connection with this threefold parting, note the following lines, which you may well commit to memory:

Loved ones indeed part sadly,
Still more so, the soul from the body;
But saddest of all, ’tis in truth,
From God to be parted for ever.

The first is endurable, the second unavoidable and dreadful, but the third is full of lamentation, deprivation, and damnation. But enough of such thoughts; they are more suited to a theologian than to a story teller.


Chapter VIII

How the scholar began to shed his sheep’s clothing

Robbed of my parents, and without a home, a living of sorrow and unassuageable grief, ceaselessly groaning and weeping aloud, I falteringly followed the scholar who was hurrying on before. If I did not come immediately at his nod, I received harsher and harsher words, and heard ever more violent threats, the farther we got from home. In this way, he hurt still more my already wounded spirit; his was indeed an unusually hard-hearted nature. The less he had to fear that I would escape, because of my ignorance of the way, and because of the increasing distance, the more he endeavored to tug at the bridle of my fear, and, through his threats, to drive me on as with spurs. After a march of two hard miles, which were no joke, as they say, and which in any case must have been measured by two people deeply in love with each other, we came from Miltenberg, at nightfall, to the little town of Kulsheim already mentioned. Wearily I followed the scholar into the best inn to be found there.


Chapter IX

How the scholar took good care of himself in the inn at Kulsheim, while Hans received nothing

As we entered the door of the inn, the landlord came toward us, and asked, in a prying way, what sort of people we were, where we were going, and what we wanted. The scholar answered him briefly, and asked him to take us in. “If you have plenty of money and are good drinkers, you will be welcome guests,” the host said. The scholar replied: “There is money enough in the banks; but have the table prepared, and bring in plenty of meat and drink.” “Well spoken,” answered the host, “I’ll do it quickly and with pleasure. I only wish there were more of you; in anticipation of coming guests, I have had a fine meal prepared for tonight.” When the scholar heard this, he said: “It is indeed splendid that you have prepared so fine a meal, for I have some relatives here with whom I must have a party before my departure. Since they are in service here, and poor, you may rest assured that I will pay the bill.” “Done,” replied the landlord, “I will have them called at once.” They did not keep us waiting long, but seated themselves at the table and fell to heartily. The scholar did not trouble himself to find out how the poor little student was faring. When the landlord asked, “Where is the young fellow who came with you?” the scholar looked around and replied, “I guess he is over there, behind the oven, sleeping on the logs, tired out from the journey. Let him sleep; it will do him more good than food.”


Chapter X

How Hans and the wandering scholar came by way of Bischofsheim and Windsheim to Langenzenn, where a friend of his father received them hospitably

I was not sunken in sleep, however, as he said; but I dared not say what I thought when I heard these words. Throughout the day, because I was so busy with the preparations for the journey, I had eaten very little; in fact, I had no appetite. Now, I was hungry, but without being called by him, I was not so bold as to go to the table. However, the calling of my stomach and the pangs of hunger let me neither sleep nor rest. I pretended to be asleep, and patiently resigned myself to my fate, which to me, blundering and parentless, seemed rather woeful. When the meal was over, the scholar paid the bill for all his people from my money, just as if it were his own. What should I say to that? What did I dare do or think under the circumstances? He regarded me as given into his hands and practically sold to him; or as a foundling, whom he possessed. Early in the morning, we started on our way, and reached the town of Bischofsheim, two miles distant. There we took a little something to eat, and proceeded toward Windsheim, a royal city. As we approached it, I could not sufficiently admire the massive city walls, houses as high as the heavens, churches and towers the like of which I had never seen before, either in my native town or anywhere else. The following day we went on, and came to the town of Langenzenn. Here we were cordially received and lodged by one of the citizens, a weaver who not long before had worked for several years with my father; we were most hospitably entertained by him. We gave him the heartfelt greetings of my parents, as they had desired us to do. He comforted me over the separation from my parents, as if I had been his own child, and finally was successful in quieting my 20 grief. With his friendly talk, he continued to raise my depressed spirits; with his gentle words, he comforted my sorrow-laden heart, and, as an example to me, he cited his own experience and that of my father and many other persons, who had had to endure much in foreign countries in order to learn certain things. The next morning, much refreshed and consoled, I left him, once again solicitously commended to the scholar. Then I trudged, with my little bundle, always somewhat behind the scholar, on the hard, tiresome way to Nürnberg, which is a famous commercial center.


Chapter XI

How under sharp threats from his companion and the mockery of the Nürnberg students, Hans entered the city

When I beheld, from a distance, the towers and blue smoke of Nürnberg, I thought I was not looking at a single city, but at a whole world. I supposed that we had about a half mile to go; but when I asked people we met how much farther it was, they said: “It is still three miles.” This was hard for us, not so much because of the distance, but because of our impatience to reach the city, which was spread out in such a broad expanse before us. To make this hardship more endurable, the scholar began to tell of his own excellence. A song or story usually makes the traveler forget the difficulty of the journey. When, towards evening, we finally began to draw near the city, we dropped down for a while before the ramparts and walls, and rested ourselves preparatory to entering. He attempted to destroy my joy in it with his witticisms. “Since you have never been her before,” he said, among other things, “we shall have to seal your mouth.” When the tears started to my eyes at this, he said: “Now follow at my heels, and don’t stare at this and that, nor gaze up at the gables of the houses, with open mouth. See to it that I do not have to stop again and again on the street, because of your snail-like pace, or you will get a sound flogging at the inn.” So, tremblingly, and exerting myself to the utmost, I entered the city. With my feet tired and sore, I followed the scholar through many streets paved with sharp stones, while from the houses, on both sides, a crowd of students set upon me. Because I did not answer their cry, “Are you a student?” they held their hands like asses’ ears above their heads, and followed me even to the neighborhood of the inn. When they found out that we should stop there, they ceased following us, and praised their school above all the schools in the country.


Chapter XII

How they went from Nürnberg to Bamberg by way of Forchheim. The beauty of Bamberg

When the scholar discovered that there were a great many people here from Miltenberg, he sought to prevent my escaping from him and going home with some of them, by starting early next day toward Forchheim, a city famed for its white bread, and lying between Nürnberg and Bamberg. Its inhabitants assert that it is the birthplace of Pilate. As there was no free lodging house for us at the schools there, we went on and came to a brilliant city situated on the Regnitz River, and not fortified by walls. The Emperor Henry and his wife Kunigund rest in the principal church here. We turned in at the common inn for the poor, and were well received with pious ceremony and form, according to an ancient and praiseworthy custom. We thought we might rest here for a while, until we looked over the city, or perhaps found a place in a school where we might remain. The city seemed very attractive to me; on the summit of the mountain which hung over it, is a monastery of our order, which can be seen from all points in the city, as if it were in heaven. Also, on an eminence above the city, stands a castle which is fortified naturally and artificially. Bamberg is adorned with public buildings and beautiful private houses, and through its midst flows the River Regnitz, according to Sylvius, or as others call it, the Rezat, over which there is a bridge at this point. There, also, are two of the six pitchers in which the water was turned into wine by the Savior, and also the sword with which Peter struck off Malachi’s ear. A certain historian, Gottfried, has briefly but beautifully praised this city in verse.


Chapter XIII

How the scholar returned to Nürnberg; the beauty of that city

Gottfried and many others call Bamberg “Pfauenberg.” Here we were refused admission by the Rector of the school, because of the great number of students; so we went back to Forchheim, and from there to Nürnberg. I made this trip with both feet lame, and limped into the city in great pain. We returned to our original lodging house, and remained there until the hostess, a very pious woman, had entirely cured my feet. Meanwhile, we satisfied our curiosity by making excursions through the city, and I could not sufficiently admire its beauty. Indeed, this is the city, so they say, that is most often mentioned and admired throughout Germany, and by other people. It is also a principal German trading center. Great wealth is to be found here, both public and private. The city continually carries on an extensive trade with Venice, Prague, Frankfort, Cologne, Antwerp, and the other great commercial centers. The royal palace is situated on an elevated piece of ground in the city. From there an unbounded view is to be had over the entire city and its surroundings. The city is shut in and well protected by high, thick walls and bastions, and by deep moats, which surround it. In addition, as Hartmann writes in his Chronicles, and as I myself have seen, it has as its principal bulwark a thick wall with three hundred and sixty-five towers.7 The city is adorned with beautiful and well-built homes, and is located in the heart of Germany. The citizens are very industrious, and theirs is a royal city. They have a council and magistracy which do not spring from the people; the older citizens govern the community while the mass of the people goes about its business, and does not trouble itself over 24 public affairs. There are other large and beautiful churches in the city besides the two parish churches which are dedicated to St. Sebaldus and St. Laurentius. It has also four churches of the mendicant friars, beautiful edifices, which the citizens have erected at various times. The women consecrated to God have two nunneries, one dedicated to St. Catherine and one to St. Clara. The Knights of the Cross of the German Order have extensive possessions in the city. There is also a fine monastery of the Benedictine order, dedicated to St. Egidius. The city also possesses a Carthusian monastery conspicuous for its majesty and the beauty of its architecture. In the market place is a beautiful chapel to the Virgin Mary, with a very pretty fountain. This remarkable city is proud of honoring as its royal patron St. Sebaldus, who is famous for his godly life and miracles. It also preserves the royal insignia; the emperor’s mantle, the sword, sceptre, imperial globe and crown of Charles the Great are deposited in the Nürnberg Archives. At every coronation of a new king, these lend to the ceremony a special glamor because of their sanctity and antiquity. We quite properly attribute more significance and nobility to antiquity, while new things lack authority. The city also possesses a treasure in the precious and most holy lance that pierced the side of Christ on the cross, also a famous bit of the holy cross, as well as other relics which are celebrated all over the world, and which each year on the thirteenth day after Easter are visited with great devotion by many people from various countries. In this connection, the following lines may be added in praise of the city:

O lovely ornament of the Noric land, O Nüurnberg,
Much extolled city, thou royal, heavenly dwelling place,
So rich in men, O thou, the most beautiful of all,
Mother of virtues, faithful foster-mother of the saintly,
Thou keepest faith, justice, and peace with thy neighbors,
And above all, thou holdest to the laws of thy ancestors.

Hartmann, doctor of the humanities and of medicine, has told the story of this famous city from the creation of the world, and has illustrated it with pictures. However, since a number of mistakes crept into it, the citizens, some time ago, called on a certain Italian poet, who was to work it over with greater care as to style and authenticity. I hear that, in its new form, it is very well done, printed on parchment with copperplate. Nürnberg, which is appropriately called Neroberg, is eighteen miles from our native town Miltenberg, and nine from Bamberg.


7  Hartmann Schedel (1440-1514), historian.


Chapter XIV

How the scholar wandered farther in Bavaria, and how they almost fell into the Danube

We took our departure from Nürnberg and continued on our way, in order to find a vacant student lodging. Although we rambled through many places in Bavaria, we could not find a place anywhere, that suited the scholar, and where we could pursue our studies. On his part, this was nothing but sheer laziness, for as long as the money held out, he preferred to go from place to place, and to torment me woefully. As for him, he was well accustomed to it, and had wandered in strange lands for years, and he liked nothing better than to idle about in this manner as long as he had money, no matter how little, in his pouch. I must tell you of the adventure that befell us during our wandering in this region. One morning we came out upon the Danube from a city where we had spent the night. It is a very rapid stream at that point. We had to cross on a small bridge which had no handrail, and had frozen all over during the night. It was in the late fall, about All Saints. At first I would not go across; finally, however, I was forced to go over ahead of the scholar. O, what a terror seized me! my head began to swim, and I cried out in anguish that I should be precipitated into the deep stream. When I came to the place where the bridge sank downward to the shore, my fear became still greater. To be brief, what I feared, would really have happened, had I not been saved by a miracle. When I had almost reached the end of the slippery way, I suddenly slid off and by my fall threw the scholar, who was coming behind me, backward to the ground. We both lay there as if dead. Neither attempted to move, for fear of being thrown into the water; for the bridge was very small, and made of a single plank.


ChapterX V

How the scholar wandered to Eger, and then begged his way to Bohemia

At last, by lying on our backs and working along with our hands and feet, we were able, with God’s help, to reach the shore. We thanked God, and after we had washed, set out on the journey we had begun toward Eger. This is an important city eighteen miles from Nürnberg. On the long journey there, we saw many other cities, such as Kulmbach, Regensburg, Hof, Jorlitz, and others. Arrived at Eger, our hope of remaining there was once more disappointed, and two days later we started for Bohemia, with our minds set on the city of Radnitz. While we moved about in this manner, from place to place, I did not mind the fatigue of the journey so much as I did the begging for bread, which I hated from the bottom of my soul.8 During the two months we had been on the road, the scholar had told me that, since our money had dwindled away, we would be forced, by need, to beg from door to door, by day, in the villages for what we wanted to eat at night in the cities in which we stopped.


8  See Appendix, 153.


Chapter XVI

How Hans had to beg for the scholar, and was often maltreated for it

When we reached a village, he sent me into it to beg, and waited for me at the opposite end. If I came out with empty hands, he beat me severely and cried: “Well! by God, I’ll soon teach you how to beg and fight too!” But, if I succeeded in getting anything choice, he took it all, and I received at most only what he left. So things went throughout the entire time I was with him. Yes, distrustful as he was, he often made me rinse out my mouth with warm water and then spit it out, to see whether I had eaten anything good while begging.9 It often happened that kind-hearted women, touched by my timidity and tender years, took me from the street into their houses; and when they heard about my misery, and how unhappily I had parted from my parents, they were very sympathetic, and took pains to offer me good refreshment, just as if I were one of their own children. Because of his suspicious nature, the scholar was often dissatisfied, and whenever he suspected that anything like that had happened to me, during his absence, he fell upon me, beating me with his fists and staff.


9  This seems to have been the traditionally accepted method by which the bacchants controlled the begging of their shooters. Thomas Platter described a similar experience (Monroe, op. cit., 109-10): “Paul had taken another bacchant to live with him, called Achacius, from Mainz. I and my companion Hildebrand had to serve them both. But my companion ate almost all; then they went on the street after him, so that they might find him eating; or they commanded him to wash out his mouth with water, and to spit in a dish with water, so that they saw whether he had eaten anything. Then they threw him on the bed, and a pillow over his head, so that he could not scream; then both bacchants beat him terribly, until they could no more. Thereafter I was so terrified that I brought home everything; they often had so much bread that it became mouldy. Then they cut off the mouldy outside, and gave it to us to eat.”


Chapter XVII

How the scholar was finally received in a student lodging in Kaaden, and the misery that overtook Hans there

He forced me to beg in villages that were so filthy and muddy, that I often waded in mire to my ankles, sometimes even to my calves; and at times, like one walking in dough, I could move neither forward nor backward. Sometimes I was attacked so viciously by watchdogs that, I believe, if the owners had not come to my assistance, I should have been torn to pieces. The scholar himself had a dislike for begging, and did not do it, whereby he escaped being mocked by the country people as a great, dirty lazy-bones who would not work, and also escaped getting covered with mud, which, as he well knew, was very deep in the villages during wet weather. Moreover, to avoid being molested by dogs, he betook himself across fields and meadows, in order to get around the villages. On account of the begging, he did not permit me to do this. He began this just after we left Nürnberg and kept rigidly to it all the way to Kaaden in Bohemia, as well as all the rest of the time that I traveled with him. In Kaaden, we were invited to stay by the Rector of the school, and were given a room in the lodging house. Shortly afterwards, two wandering scholars from Vienna arrived with their abc-shooters, and were assigned to room with us.10 What was left of the day after the public lecture, choir, and begging, I spent in our cell; we young abc-shooters, of whom there were a good many, were accustomed, because of 30 the cold, to spend the night in a wooden passage over the stove. Once in my sleep, I fell down, and although I injured my head, as well as the stove, I was severely reprimanded in public for the damage done to the stove.11


10  Latin scutones (German Schutzen), abc-shooters, young boys who “fagged” for the wandering scholars. See Appendix, 155.

11  Thomas Platter also tells of the hard “shakedown” that he had as a shooter (Monroe, op, cit.., 104): “In winter the shooters lie on the ground in the school, but the bacchants in the small chambers of which there were several hundred at St. Elizabeth. But in the summer when it was hot, we lay in the churchyard, gathered grass together, such as one in summer on Saturdays spreads in the gentlemen’s street before the doors. We collected some in a little place in the churchyard, and lay therein like pigs in the straw. But when it rained, we ran into the school; and when there was a thunder-storm, we sang responses and other songs with the sub-cantor almost the whole night.”


Chapter XVIII

How they continued the journey, and came to Maschau where a terrible Count governed

Oh, the things I had to endure from the scholar all through that winter! I did not have a moment’s rest from his eternal scolding, and complaining. When I was unable to provide to his entire satisfaction, by begging, he insisted that I steal what he wanted. When the snow disappeared, about Lent, and the fields began to be green, we betook ourselves to a little country town about two miles from Kaaden, called Kommotau; heretics and christians lived there together. We stayed there only a short time on account of the plague, which daily raged more terribly from house to house. So, we went on to another little town called Maschau, not more than three or four miles away. We found no foreign students there, however, except one from Bavaria with his little abc-shooter. The inhabitants of this place were heretics, who spoke Bohemian; there were also a few Catholics. Their Lord was a Count, an evil, godless, merciless heretic, who knew the black arts. His fearful tyranny revealed itself especially clearly in the following incident. He had, as a valet, a young well-built man, who was very much liked by all who came into the house. This man permitted himself to be misled, by two evil fellow servants, to steal a box and a few other articles of slight value, one night, and to run away with them, since he did not want to serve such a despot any longer. When the tyrant found this out in the morning, he tracked him down with the aid of his black art, although he was quite a long way off in a woody region, and had him seized at the edge of the wood.


Chapter XIX

The Count’s cruelty

The unfortunate man was thus seized, dragged back, maltreated most atrociously, and thrown into prison, to be hanged immediately. All the people vainly begged for mercy for him; without avail, the elders of the country, the lords, and the towns wrote the most urgent letters; in fact, even the request of his paramour, the only person whom he loved, was useless. Then the tyrant’s mother hurried here from Prague, to entreat him to free the incarcerated youth. When he refused to hear her out, she threw herself at his feet, thinking that, by such humility and earnestness, his heart would be moved to compassion. She would not rise until he heard her plea. Then he became furious, and ruthless and godless as he was, he kicked her from him and ordered her to go. When she was brought out, she left the place with her attendants, to the open scandal of all. The young man was hanged the next day. He was escorted to the gallows by an enormous crowd of both sexes, people who had been fond of him from his childhood, because of his blamelessness and good behavior. The weeping was so great that it must have moved any heart to pity, even if it were harder than adamant, but it did not affect the heart of that tyrant. Although he may have been very noble by birth, his soul was harsher than that of the worst peasant. Such nobles are found even today, who the more they are entreated in a cause, the harsher they are in refusing to be moved.


Chapter XX

More concerning the Count’s cruelty.
The faithfulness of a bear

This same tyrant’s cruelty revealed itself on another occasion. He once discovered the cook purloining something from the inner part of the house, and immediately had him flogged and thrown into prison, with the intention of putting him to death. Not only did the people undertake to secure his release, but so also did a bear which the cook had brought up from a cub, to obey his master’s commands. At last, the Count allowed himself to be moved to compassion more by the impetuous persistence of the wild animal than by the people, with the condition however, that the cook should be got out of the dungeon without human aid, but with the cleverness and assistance of the bear alone. He thought this impossible. The animal comprehended as if he had human understanding. It hurried to the tower, and full of joy, behaved, with movements of its feet and with growling, as if to indicate that the cook must come out immediately and give him his usual meal. It was a remarkable thing, an unusual spectacle, the sight of which gave the tyrant a great deal of pleasure. The animal seized the rope hanging over the mouth of the pit, with which prisoners were usually drawn up; and, like a man with good understanding, let it down little by little, growling, and by shaking it, gave him to understand that he should sit on the piece of wood that was fastened to it. When the cook sat on it, the bear drew him up, to the glad surprise of all, hugged him, and, dancing, led him into his kitchen. This incident had indeed given the tyrant some satisfaction, but his good humor did not last so long that he completely forgave. One day he happened to be thinking somewhat bitterly of the cook’s faithlessness, for which he was to have been put to death, and of his release. In order that his will might not be entirely unfulfilled when 34 he had once decided to put someone to death, he gave orders that the animal itself should be taken into the forest, and after a time, pursued by dogs. But the dogs, who knew the bear, played with it instead of baiting and hunting it. At last the hunters, much against their wishes, were obliged to kill the bear, which had located itself in a tree and had lifted its paws as if begging for mercy.


Chapter XXI

How a castle was destroyed by evil spirits,
and Hans was to dig up a treasure guarded
by spirits

In this and many other ways the Count exercised his tyranny at that time, and was held in fear and horror by everyone. He had a companion of similar character who daily oppressed his subordinates with enormous exactions and hardships. At last, as a just punishment from God, evil spirits one night shattered his castle and destroyed its walls. You will find something about it in my writings on noteworthy events of the time. In the vicinity of this town there is a mountain, on which, rumor has it, treasures have been buried. When my scholar heard of this, he procured tools for me with which I might uncover it. But I would have nothing to do with the business. Then in anger he fell upon me with threats and blows, but, as others warned me against it, he could not induce me to engage in the hazardous undertaking. When he found me opposed to this and similar godless plans, he began to hate me.


Chapter XXII

How a mean comrade used John’s ignorance
of the Bohemian language to play him
a shameful trick

He often sent me with another shooter, whom his friend had brought with him, into the villages to steal poultry. He took care that I should be diligent and apt in the business, but not that I should make rapid progress in the arts and sciences. Indeed, I don’t know that I ever learned a Latin word from him. He was ignorant himself, and fled from good schools where he was obliged to study; he sought, instead, the small and unknown schools, because there the boys thought him learned on account of his size. Such a one he had found at length, in this place, after long wandering in the countries of many rulers; it was fairly well suited to his laziness. While I was there, I had to pay more attention to the language of this barbaric people, since I did not know it, than to Latin. Once I asked one of my fellow students, who was a native, to teach me how to address women, as in begging I found them at home more frequently than the men. Then out of meanness, he taught me to say certain obscene words. Without being aware of my deception, I used these words as a greeting to a young woman who, as it happened, was his sister. She struck at me in intense anger, sprang from her chair, seized her distaff, and rushed at me. As she approached me, I was seized with great fear, sprang backwards over the threshold, and in my leap trampled some young geese to death. With that she became enraged almost to madness, ran at me with shrill cries, while I took flight in still greater terror. I was so frightened that I hardly knew where I was. I did not understand at all how I had drawn upon myself such persecution from the young woman; I thought I had used only pious and honorable words of greeting. Afterwards, when I 37 had escaped her, I let her know my innocence, and when she discovered her brother’s baseness, she turned her rage upon him. In this way I was put upon my guard, and, as I feared for my skin, I no longer cared to learn the language from frivolous people.


Chapter XXIII

Religious customs of the heretics, and how the scholars, on their way back to Eger, took the hot baths at Elbogen

Here and elsewhere I have given little attention to the heretics’ worship of God in the churches, because at the age of twelve I was more concerned with my porridge, with which I daily appeased my hunger, than with the beliefs and heresies of these people. But I do remember that the entire town had only one priest, who seldom observed mass or preached a sermon, except on Sunday, and dispensed the sacrament only once a year and when there was special need. He lived near the church, and eked out a rather miserable existence. They called him their pastor. They did not see to it, however, that he possessed any more than necessity demanded for his physical well-being, and for that of a very old woman whom he had as a servant. When the plague finally broke out here, we fled from the place, and again moved toward Germany, hoping to spend the winter in the city of Eger, if there were a vacant place in the lodging house there. On the way, we entered the domain of the Count of Schlick, five miles from Eger and a mile from the county seat of Elbogen, which was a very wonderful place and famed for its hot springs in which we bathed.12 We spent two or three weeks there. After that we set out again, and finally were accepted in the school at Eger, and there we both received employment with wealthy families, to assist the boys with their studies.13


12  Karlsbad.

13  See Appendix, 154.


Chapter XXIV

How Hans had to suffer further abuse from the scholar

The scholar was delighted at his unexpected good fortune; but mine, which appeared somewhat more desirable, aroused him to envy and great displeasure. He said: “It is not fair that a shooter, like yourself, should be elevated so soon in a strange place, and have a better time than I.” Since, in filling his new position, he no longer needed my services for begging, he turned me over to two other scholars, for whom I had to beg all winter. I complained of this to the boy who was entrusted to me, and he told his parents. Thereupon the latter told me to come to the house every day with their son, and let those fellows go. After I had done this a few times, contrary to the scholar’s orders, he seized me as we started home from school, dragged me into his friends’ quarters, tore off my clothes, flogged me unmercifully for a long time, and left me lying bound in the room until the next day. In the morning, he asked me if I were ready to stay in the service of the scholars, and I gladly said “yes.” Then he freed me, turned me over to them, with threats and curses, and went out to his own dwelling.


Chapter XXV

How Hans was obliged to flee from the cruel scholars, and in the spring took service in an inn in Karlsbad

Thus, in the morning my boy had to go to school alone. When I told him what happened to me, he hastened to inform his parents. At their request, I told them everything, whereupon they were most sympathetic. They told me to stay in the house, and they would see what would happen. The scholar, who to his great displeasure, got wind of the state of affairs, not only through the complaints of his fellow scholars, to whom he had practically sold me, but also through my absence, came to our house the next morning accompanied by a large number of shooters and scholars. But when they tried to force their way up the stairs to the floor above, where we were, the boy’s father met them with weapons, charged into them boldly, drove them from the house and yard, and shouted after them with threats, not to be so rash again. But I, miserable one, did not know what to do after this occurrence; I would never have dared to go into the school again, nor even to carry a message outside the door. The scholars had sent word to me that they would tear me to pieces if they met me anywhere. Out of fear of them, I gave them up, and school also, fled secretly from town, and hastened again to the watering place.14 Here, until spring, I served the guests at an inn. Then I was kidnaped by a Bohemian noble. Thus, in the end, I was forced, in consequence of the scholar’s cruelty, to give up school and the pursuit of knowledge, as I could no longer endure his godless behavior toward me; and I had been so solicitously commended to him by my parents. Neither of us saw the other again, nor do I know what became of him. It happened that, at the hot springs, I found two shooters who had 41 lived in the same room with me in the lodgings at Kaaden. They told me that at a certain place their scholars had been hanged for stealing. The thought came to me that something of the sort might have happened to mine. If it occurred later, as I trust it did not, at least he was a chip of the old black, since his father went to the gallows for his thievery. Meanwhile, I have heard that, after my departure, he once came into the neighborhood of our native town, but because his father had been hanged there, and because he had lost me, he did not dare enter it. His friends, whom he had secretly summoned, went out to him; our people who had heard about it, went with them. But when he could not give a truthful reply to their urgent inquiry as to where he had left me, and kept getting himself more entangled in contradictory statements, he contrived to escape from them, and never again showed himself in our town.

Well, you now have before you all the misery that I had to endure under the rod of the schoolmaster, from my seventh to my twelfth year, and what kind of loyalty that ass of a scholar exhibited toward me, among strangers, after the solicitous recommendations of my parents. May God forgive him the evil he did me. Amen!


14  Karlsbad.



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