It was already half past one, and for the sake of Ursel, who was still obliged to take care of herself, he urged departure, adding gaily that he had not the ability to “defend himself against two.” Erasmus, too, was surprised to find it so late, and, after shaking hands with the old woman and promising to visit her soon again, seized his cap. Wolf accompanied him.
The May night was sultry, and the air in the low room had been hot and oppressive.
He would gladly have dropped the useless discussion, but Erasmus’s heart was set upon winning his schoolmate to the doctrine which he believed with his whole soul. He toiled with the utmost zeal, but during their nocturnal walk also he failed to convince his opponent. Both were true to their religion. Erasmus saw in his faith the return to the pure teachings of Christ and the liberation of the human soul from ancient fetters; Wolf, who had had them pointed out to him at school by a Protestant teacher, by no means denied the abuses that had crept into his, but he clung with warm love to Holy Church, which offered his soul an abundance of what it needed.
His art certainly also owed to her its best development—from the inexhaustible spring of faith which is formed from thousands of rivulets and tributaries in the holy domain of the Catholic Church, and in it alone, the most sublime of all material flowed to the musician, and not to him only, but to the artist, the architect, and the sculptor. The fullest stream—he was well aware of it—came from ancient pagan times, but from whatever sources the spring was fed, the Church had understood how to assimilate, preserve, and sanctify it.
Erasmus listened silently while Wolf eagerly made these statements; but when the latter closed with the declaration that the evangelical faith would never attain the same power of elevating hearts, he interrupted the knight with the exclamation, “We shall have to wait for that!”
Luther, he went on, had given the most powerful encouragement to music, and the German Protestant composers even now were not so very far behind the Netherland ones. The Catholic Church could no longer claim the great Albrecht Durer, and, if art ceased to create images of the saints, with which the childish minds of the common people practised idolatry, so much the better. The Infinite and Eternal was no subject for the artist. The humanization of God only belittled his infinite and illimitable nature. Earthly life offered art material enough. Man himself would be the worthiest model for imitation, and perhaps no earlier epoch had created handsomer likenesses of men and women than would now be produced by evangelical artists.
To their own surprise, during this conversation they had reached the Hiltner house, and Erasmus invited his friend to come to his room and over a glass of wine answer him, as he had had the last word. But Wolf had already drunk at his own home more of the fiery Wurzburg from the precentor’s cellar than usual. Besides, much as he still had to say in reply to Erasmus, the sensible young man deemed it advisable to avoid the syndic’s house for the present. The confessor’s suspicion had been aroused, and De Soto was a Dominican, who certainly did not stand far from the Holy Inquisition.