Master ANTONY, a joiner
CLARA, his daughter
CARL, his son
A Secretary WOLFRAM, a merchant_
ADAM, a bailiff
Place. A fair-sized town
MARIA MAGDALENA (1844)
TRANSLATED BY PAUL BERNARD THOMAS
A Room in the Joiner’s House.
Enter CLARA; the MOTHER.
Your wedding dress? Oh, how well it becomes you! It looks as if it had been made today!
Yes, child, fashion keeps on going forward until it can go no farther and has to turn around and go back. This dress has already been out of style and in again ten times.
But this time it is not exactly in style, dear mother! The sleeves are too wide! It must not annoy you!
I should have to be you for that! CLARA.
And so this is the way you looked! But surely you carried a bunch of flowers too, didn’t you?
I should hope so! Else why do you think I nursed that sprig of myrtle in the pot for so many years?
I have often asked you to, but you have never before put it on. You have always said: It is no longer my wedding dress; it is my shroud now, and that is something one should not play with. I got so that I couldn’t even look at it any more, because, hanging there so white, it always made me think of your death, and of the day when the old women would try to pull it on over your head. Why then today?
When one is very sick, as I was, and does not know whether one is going to get well again or not, a great many things revolve in one’s head. Death is more terrible than you think—oh, it is awful! It casts a shadow over the world; one after the other it blows out all the lights that shine with such cheerful brightness all around us, the kindly eyes of husband and children cease to sparkle, and it grows dark everywhere. But deep in the heart it strikes a light, which burns brightly and reveals a great deal one does not care to see. I am not conscious of ever having done a wrong; I have walked in God’s ways, I have done my best about the home, I have brought you and your brother up to fear God, and I have kept together the fruits of your father’s hard work. I have always managed to lay aside an extra penny for the poor, and if now and then I have turned somebody away, because I felt out of sorts or because too many came, it wasn’t a very great misfortune for him, because I was sure to call him back and give him twice as much. Oh, what does it all amount to? People dread the last hour when it threatens to come, writhe like a worm over it, and implore God to let them live, just as a servant implores his master to let him do something over again that he has done poorly, so that he may not come short in his wages on pay-day.