Then the son rose from his seat and noiselessly moved
to the doorway,
Slowly, and speaking no word. The father, however, in passion
After him called, “Yes, go, thou obstinate fellow! I know thee!
Go and look after the business henceforth, that I have not to chide thee;
But do thou nowise imagine that ever a peasant-born maiden
Thou for a daughter-in-law shalt bring into my dwelling, the hussy!
Long have I lived in the world, and know how mankind should be dealt with;
Know how to entertain ladies and gentlemen so that contented
They shall depart from my house, and strangers agreeably can flatter.
Yet I’m resolved that some day I one will have for a daughter,
Who shall requite me in kind and sweeten my manifold labors;
Who the piano shall play to me, too; so that there shall with pleasure
All the handsomest people in town and the finest assemble,
As they on Sundays do now in the house of our neighbor.” Here Hermann
Softly pressed on the latch, and so went out from the chamber.
Thus did the modest son slip away from the angry up-braiding;
But in the tone he had taken at first, the father continued:
“That comes not out of a man which he has not in him; and hardly
Shall the joy ever be mine of seeing my dearest wish granted:
That my son may not as his father be, but a better.
What would become of the house, and what of the city if each one
Were not with pleasure and always intent on maintaining, renewing,
Yea, and improving, too, as time and the foreigner teach us!
Man is not meant, forsooth, to grow from the ground like a mushroom,
Quickly to perish away on the spot of ground that begot him,
Leaving no trace behind of himself and his animate action!
As by the house we straightway can tell the mind of the master,
So, when we walk through a city, we judge of the persons who rule it.
For where the towers and walls are falling to ruin; where offal
Lies in heaps in the gutters, and alleys with offal are littered;
Where from its place has started the stone, and no one resets it;
Where the timbers are rotting away, and the house is awaiting
Vainly its new supports,—that place we may know is ill governed.
Since if not from above work order and cleanliness downward,
Easily grows the citizen used to untidy postponement;
Just as the beggar grows likewise used to his ragged apparel.
Therefore I wished that our Hermann might early set out on some travels;
That he at least might behold the cities of Strasburg and Frankfort,
Friendly Mannheim, too, that is cheerful and evenly builded.
He that has once beheld cities so cleanly and large, never after
Ceases his own native city, though small it may be, to embellish.
Do not the strangers who come here commend the repairs in our gateway,