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From A Literary Source-book of the German Renaissance, by Merrick Whitcomb, PH. D., University of Pennsylvania; 1900; pp. 62-67.



Ulrich von Hutten (1488-1523) was born in the castle of Steckelberg, in Franconia, of the knightly class, and was destined, on account of his slight stature and delicate health, for the church. He broke through the parental plans, however, and gave himself to a life of literary effort. Von Hutten’s career was full of adventure and disorder, and lacked purpose, until his association with the Reformers turned his ardent energies into a distinct channel. With all the impetuosity of his race he took up the cudgels against the papacy. Although co-operating with Luther, von Hutten’s interests were never doctrinal, but economic and political. He looked forward to a united Germany, in which the emperor, with the free knights at his back, should sweep away the territorial barriers to his power, and rid the land of the Italian yoke as well. Although he contributed much to the advancement of the Lutheran movement in its early and critical stage, yet it was well for him and for the Reformers that he passed away before the movement came to be defined. He would have had little sympathy with its doctrinal tendencies, or with that alliance with the decentralizing forces in the empire, which alone assured its success.


(Sol traversing the heavens in company with Phaeton, his son, having 63 finished the uphill journey, employs his leisure in discussing with his young companion the manners and customs of the Germans, over whose land his chariot is now passing. Beneath him is Augsberg, where the diet of 1518 has just been assembled, whither Caietano, legate of pope Leo X., has been sent for the purpose of adjusting a trifling controversy which has lately broken out at Wittenberg. The habitual drunkenness of the Germans has just been mentioned with regret.)

Sol.  This fault is inborn with them, as deceit with the Italians, thievery with the Spaniards, pride with the French, and other vices with other peoples.

Phaeton.  If indeed they must have a fault, I should rather they would have this one than those you have just mentioned. I hope, however, that time, which mends all human faults, will remove this as well. But let us turn our attention again to the Reichstag and the Pope’s legate, for he (just look, father!) is moved to anger and heated with rage. Now he is shouting out something to us from his place in the procession; and I really believe that he is angry at us; for he is looking this way.

Sol.  Yes, he is enraged at me. Listen, then, to what the little fellow says, as with wrinkled brow and haughty air he threatens me.

Caietan.  Here, you! At my merest suggestion, not to speak of my command, you ought to shine clearer and brighter than you have been doing!

Sol.  What’s that you say, legate? What’s that you say? Is this the way you talk to me?

Caietan.  To you! As though you did not know you were guilty of a great crime!

Sol.  In truth I do not. Tell me then, what evil thing have I done?

Caietan.  I’ll tell you then. So you are coming out a little, you rascal? You are shedding your rays upon the world? You who ought, upon my slightest hint (let alone my command) to shine clearer and brighter than you do.

Sol.  I don’t see yet, what evil I have done.

Caietan.  You don’t see? You who for ten whole days have shed no beam of your brightness; you who have obstinately wrapped yourself in clouds, as though you begrudged the world your light.

Sol.  That is the fault of the astrologers and star-gazers, if it is 64 anybody’s fault, for they with their prognostications have arranged that I should not shine during this time.

Caietan.  But you should have considered what would be agreeable to a legate of the pope rather than what would please the star-gazers. Don’t you know what I promised you, when I left Italy, if you did not warm up the German lands, which are so unseasonably cold, and make them quite summer-like for me, so that I should have no need to wish myself back in Italy?

Sol.  I paid no attention to your orders; for it has never been my opinion that mortal men should command the sun.

Caietan.  It hasn’t been your opinion? Perhaps you are not aware that a Roman bishop (who has in this instance endowed me with all his powers) has he power to bind and loose whate’er he will, in heaven and on earth?

Sol.  I have heard of it, but I did not believe that what he claimed was true, for I have never known a mortal man to change anything up here.

Caietan.  What? You do not believe it? Perverted Christian that you are, they ought to put you under the ban and hand you over to the devil for a heretic.

Sol.  Would you cast me out of heaven and give me over to the devil, and, so to speak, blot the sun out of the skies?

Caietan.  Indeed I will do it, if you do not quickly confess to one of my secretaries and seek absolution from me.

Sol.  When I have confessed, what will you do with me then?

Caietan.  I shall lay a penalty upon you, that you may hunger with fastings, or perform some difficult task, or tire yourself with pilgrimages, or give alms, or contribute something toward the Turkish war, or give money for an indulgence, wherewith the cathedral of St. Peter, which now is fallen into ruins at Rome, may be rebuilt; or if you wish to save your money, that you be scourged with rods for your sins.

Sol.  That is rather severe. What will you do with me after that?

Caietan.  Then I will absolve you and make you clean.

Sol.  Thus, as the proverb runs, you will brighten up the sun?

Caietan.  Yes, I will do that, if it please me, by virtue of the powers which the tenth Leo has conferred upon me.

Sol.  What trickery do I hear? Do you mean to say, that any 65 one, even amongst mortals, is silly enough to believe you have this power? Not to speak of the sun, that has oversight upon all. You had better go and take a dose of hellebore; for it seems to me you are losing your mind.

Caietan.  “Losing my mind!” You are de facto under the ban; for you have spoken disrespectfully to the Pope’s legate, whereby you have fallen into great and intolerable damnation. Therefore will I shortly proclaim you publicly and with all the pomp of a great assembly under the ban, because you have angered me.

Phaeton.  Father, I should scorn this arrogance. What may a wretched mortal do against immortal creatures?

Sol.  Let us rather treat him with contempt. He is indeed to be pitied, for he has gone mad through illness.

Phaeton.  What sort of illness?

Sol.  He is sick with greed. Since the matter which he has in hand in Germany will not come his way, he has fallen into a rage and lost his mind in consequence. But I am disposed to chaff him further. What say you, holy father? Would you condemn me unheard and guiltless?

Caietan.  Just as I have said. It is not customary to permit all those to have a hearing, who have been condemned by the Pope and his legates.

Sol.  That would be wrong, however, if anybody but you should do it. But be gracious, I beseech you, and forgive me my sins just this once.

Caietan.  Now you are talking properly; for whoever will not be damned, must sue for grace. Wherefore I command you, to look out for me, wherever I may be; and now, so long as I remain in Germany, to make good weather, and by virtue of your heat to banish that cold which tortures me yet even in the month of July.

Sol.  Why don’t you put the cold under the ban?

Caietan.  That is worth thinking of; but you attend to that which I command.

Sol.  I should have done this before, but I thought that you were engaged in some secret undertaking which you did not wish these ordinary German people to see. Wherefore I feared that if I should shine brightly, and display these secrets of yours to the eyes of the people, your affairs might miscarry.

Caietan.  How could you show my secret affairs to others, when you do not know them yourself?


Sol.  I don’t know them? Do you think I don’t know that your present wish is to prevent Charles from being chosen Roman King in accordance with the desires of his subjects? That you have many other things under way, in which, if the Germans knew, they would no longer assist you, but would hate you with a deadly hatred.

Caietan.  Let them hate me, for they must fear me too. I have indeed not wished to have you disclose such things. Moreover, if you do it, you are under the ban.

Sol.  What a tyrant you are, to be sure!

Caietan.  Furthermore, I command you that you shall direct your arrow and shot pestilence and sudden death amongst the Germans, in order that many benefices and spiritual fiefs may become vacant, that pensions may accrue and money flow to Rome, and something of all this shall be mine. For it s now a long time since clerics have been dying frequently enough in Germany. Do you hear what I tell you?

Sol.  Perfectly.

Caietan.  But first of all shoot at the bishops, that the pallia may be bought. Then hit the provosts and the wealthy prelates in order that the Pope’s new creatures may have wherewith to live; for they must be considered each according to his rank, in order that they may want nothing.

Sol.  In order that I may bring about a pestilence it will be necessary to bring on clouds, to drop a mist upon the earth and darken the atmosphere; wherefore I fear that this bad weather will displease you.

Caietan.  Well, I prefer that the pestilence should take place, so that the benefices may be vacant. So far as the atmosphere is concerned, darken it as little as you may; but if you cannot avoid it, do what is best and most useful.

Phaeton.  O miserable rascal! Now for the first time I perceive where the shoe pinches, what pleases and displeases him, what makes him sad, what, joyful. Let the stream flow to his desire, and he can endure all kinds of air, cold and bad weather. I will address him. Listen, wretched man. A shepherd should pasture his sheep, not murder them.

Caietan.  Whaty say you, church-thief? What say you, wicked driver? You, whom I shall crush and crunch in a moment with my curse. Will you seek to hinder my affairs?


Phaeton.  Indeed, I certainly shall, if I am able. For why do you seek to kill those from whom you are forcing money in every way without this means?

Caietan.  You accursed one, you malefactor, you condemned, a son of Satan, how dare you yelp against me? Is it wrong that a shepherd should shear his sheep?

Phaeton.  That he should hear them is not wrong; for the good shepherds do that as well; but they do not kill and flay them. Tell that to your Pope Leo, and say to him as well, that if he does not send henceforth more temperate legates into Germany, he will some day see a conspiracy of the sheep against an unjust, harsh and bloodthirsty shepherd, and they will perhaps do a deed that is both right and merited. Already indeed they sing and talk about you, and it is my opinion that they will no longer tolerate you, not even if you should send wagons full of excommunications against them across the mountains.

Caietan.  You are letting out a thing that should not be talked about. Wherefore be you excommunicated! I lay this punishment upon you for the discourteous, thoughtless talk which you have addressed to me.

Phaeton.  Then I leave you, an object of derision to the Germans, whom you are in the habit of plundering; and may they drive you hence with ridicule and abuse, even handle you roughly, and so use you, that you may be an example to posterity. Scorn be upon you! Thus I punish you.

Sol.  Cease with your scurrility; it is time to guide our car down the slope and make way for the evening star. Let him lie, cheat, steal, rob and plunder at his own risk.

Phaeton.  The devil fly away with him! Come, then, I will prick up the steeds and get us hence.

Jacta est alea.


*  (The On-lookers.) Ulrichi Hutteni equitis Germani opera. Ed. E. Böcking, Vol. IV. Lips. 1860.

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