Chap. Viii.: HOW SIMPLICISSIMUS
ENDURED A CHEERLESS BATH IN THE RHINE
Yet must I tell you of a couple of adventures before I say how I was again freed from my musquet, and one in truth of great danger to life and limb, the other only of danger to the soul, wherein I did obstinately persist : for I will conceal my vices no more than my virtues, in order that not only may my story be complete, but also that the untravelled reader may learn what strange blades there be in this world.
As I said at the end of the last chapter, I might now go out with foraging-parties, which in garrison towns is not granted to every loose customer, but only to good soldiers. So once on a time nineteen of us together went up to the Rhine to lie in wait for a ship of Basel that was given out to carry secretly officers and goods of the Duke of Weimar’s army. So above Ottenheim we got us a fishing-boat wherein to cross over and post ourselves on an eyot that lay handy to compel all ships that drew near to come to land, to which end ten of us were safely ferried over by the fisherman. But when one of us that could at other times row well was fetching over the remaining nine, of whom I was one, the skiff suddenly capsized and in a twinkling we lay together in the Rhine. I cared not much for the others, but thought of myself. But though I strained to the utmost and used all the arts of a good swimmer, yet the stream played with me as with a ball, tossing me about, sometimes over, sometimes under. I fought so manfully that I often came up to get breath : but had it been colder, I had never been able to hold out so long and to escape with my life. Often did I try to win to the bank, but the eddies hindered me, tossing me from one side to another : and though ‘twas but a short time before I can opposite Goldscheur, it seemed to me so long that I despaired of my life. But when I had passed that village and had made sure I must pass under the Strassburg Rhine-bridge dead or alive, I was ware of a great tree whose branches stretched into the river not far from me. To this the stream flowed straight and strong : for which cause I put forth all the strength I had left to get to the tree, wherein I was most lucky, so that by the help both of the water and my own pains I found myself astride upon the biggest branch, which at first I had taken for a tree : which same was yet so beaten by waves and whirlpools that I kept bobbing up and down without ceasing, and so shook up my belly that I wellnigh spewed up lungs and liver. Hardly could I keep my hold, for all things danced strangely before my eyes. And fain would I have slipped in the water again, yet found I was not man enough to endure even the hundredth part of such labour as I had so far accomplished. So must I stick there and hope for an uncertain deliverance, which God must send me if I was to get off alive. But in this respect my conscience gave me but cold comfort, bidding me remember that I had so wantonly rejected such gracious help a year or two before ; yet did I hope for the best, and began to pray as piously as I had been reared in a cloister, determining to live more cleanly in future ; yea, and made divers vows. Thus did I renounce the soldier’s life and forswore plundering for ever, did throw my cartridgebox and knapsack from me, and naught would suffice me but to become a hermit again and do penance for my sins, and be thankful to God’s mercy for my hoped-for deliverance till the end of my days, and when I had spent two or three hours upon the branch between hope and fear there came down the Rhine that very ship for which I was to help lie in wait. So I lifted up my voice piteously and screamed for help in the name of God and the last Judgment, and because they must needs pass close to me, and therefore the more clearly see my wretched plight, all in the ship were moved to pity, so that they put to land to devise how best to help me. And because, by reason of the many eddies that were all round me (being caused by the roots and branches of the tree), it was not possible to swim out to me without risk of life nor to come to me with any vessel, small or great, my helping needed much thought : and how I fared in mind meanwhile is easy to guess. At last they sent two fellows in to the river above me with a boat, that let a rope float down to me and kept one end of it themselves. The other end I with great trouble did secure, and bound it round my body was well as I could, so that I was drawn up by it into the boat like a fish on a line and so brought into the ship.
So now when I had in this fashion escaped death, I had done well to fall on my knees on the bank and thank God’s goodness for my deliverance, and moreover then begin to amend my life as I had vowed and promised in my deadly need. But far from it. For when they asked me who I was and how I had come into this peril I began so to lie to the people that I might have made the heavens turn black : for I thought, if thou sayst thou wast minded to help plunder them, they will cast thee into the Rhine again. So I gave myself out for a banished organist, and said that as I would to Strassburg to seek a place as schoolmaster or the like on the upper Rhine, a party had captured me and stripped me and thrown me in to the Rhine, which brought me to that same tree. And as I contrived to trick out these my lies finely, and also strengthened them with oaths, I was believed, and all kindness shewn me in the matter of food and drink to refresh me, of which I had great need indeed.
At the custom-house at Strassburg most did land, and I with them,
giving them all thanks ; and among them I was ware of a young merchant
whose face and gait and actions gave me to understand that I had seen him
before : yet could I not remember where, but perceived by his speech
that ‘twas that very same cornet that had once made me prisoner :
and now could I not conceive how from so fine a young soldier he had been
turned into a merchant, specially since he was a gentleman born.
Yea, my curiosity to know if my eyes and ears deceived me or not urged
me to go to him and say, “Monsieur Schönstein, is it you or not?”
to which he answered, “ I am no Herr von Schönstein but a simple trader.”
“And I too,” says I, “was never a huntsman of Soest but an organist, or
rather a land-tramping beggar.” And “O brother!” he answered, “what
the devil trade art thou of? Whither art thou bond?” “Brother,”
said I, “if thou beest chosen by heaven to help preserve my life, as hath
now happened for the second time, then ‘tis certain that my destiny requires
that I should not be far from thee.”
Then did we embrace as two true friends, that had aforetime promised to love one another to the death. I must to his quarters and tell him all that had befallen me since I had left Lippstadt for Cologne to fetch my treasure, nor did I conceal from him how I had intended to lay wait for their ship with a party, and how we had fared therein. And he on his part confided to me how he had been sent by the Hessian General Staff to Duke Bernhard of Weimar on business of the greatest import concerning the conduct of the war : to bring reports and to confer with him on future plans and campaigns, all which he had accomplished and was now on his way back in the disguise of a merchant, as I could see. By the way also he told me that my bride at his departure was expecting child-bed, and had been well entreated by her parents and kinsfolk, and furthermore that the colonel still kept the ensigncy for me. Yet he jested at my by reason of my pock-marked face, and would have it that neither my wife nor the other women of Lippstadt would take me for the Huntsman. So we agreed to Lippstadt which was what I most desired. And because I had naught but rags upon me he lent me some trifle in money, wherewith I equipped myself like to an apprentice-lad.
But as ’tis said, “What will be, must be,” that I now found true : for as we sailed down the river and the ship was examined at Rheinhausen, the Philippsburgers knew me again, seized me and carried me off to Philippsburg1 , where I had to play the musqueteer as before : all which angered my friend the cornet as much myself : for now must we separate : and he could not much take my part, for he had enough to do to get through himself.
Chap. Ix.: WHEREFORE CLERGYMEN
SHOULD NEVER EAT HARES THAT HAVE BEEN TAKEN IN A SNARE
Now hath the gentle reader heard in what danger of life I put myself. But as concerns the danger of my soul ‘tis to be understood that as a musqueteer I became a right desperate fellow, that cared naught for God and his word. No wickedness was for me too great : and all the goodnesses and loving kindnesses that I had ever received from God quite forgotten : and so I cared neither for this world nor the next but lived like a beast. None would have believed that I had been brought up with a pious hermit : seldom I went to church and never to confess : and because I cared so little for my own soul’s health, therefore I troubled my fellow men yet more. Where I could cheat a man I failed not to do it, yea I prided myself upon it, so that none came off scot-free from his dealings with me. From this I often got me a whipping, and still more often the torture-horse ; yea, I was often threatened with the strappado2 and the gibbet : but naught availed : I went on in my godless career till it seemed I would play the desperado and run post-haste to hell. And though I did no deed evil enough to forfeit my life, yet was I so reckless that, save for sorcerers and sodomites, no worse man could be found.
Of this our regiment’s chaplain was ware, and being a right zealous saver of souls, at Eastertide he sent for me to know why I had not been at Confession and Holy Communion. But I treated his many faithful warnings as I had done those of the good pastor at Lippstadt, so it seemed as if Christ and His Baptism were lost in me, at the end says he, “O miserable man : I had believed that thou didst err through ignorance : now know I that thou goest on in thy sins from pure wickedness and of malice aforethought. Who, thinkest thou, can feel compassion for thy poor soul and its damnation? For my part, I protest before God and the world that I am free of guilt as to that damnation ; for I have done and would have gone on to do without wearying, all that was necessary to further thy salvation. But hence forward ‘twill not be my duty to do more than to provided that thy body, when thy poor soul shall leave it in such a desperate state, shall be conveyed to no dedicated place there to be buried with other departed pious Christians, but to the carrion-pit with the carcasses of dead beasts, or to that place where are bestowed other God-forgotten and desperate men.” Yet this severe threatening bore as little fruit as the earlier warnings, and that for this reason only, that I was shamed to confess. O fool that I was! For often I would tell of my knaves’ tricks in great company and would lie to make them seem the greater ; yet now, when I should be converted and confess my sins to a single man, and him standing in God’s place, to receive absolution, then was I as a stock or a stone. I say the truth : I was stockish ; and stockish I remained : for I answered, “I do serve the Emperor as a soldier : and if I die as a soldier, ‘twill be no wonder if I, like other soldiers (which cannot always be buried in holy ground, but must be content to lie anywhere on the field in ditches or in the maw of wolf and raven), must make shift outside the churchyard.”
And so I left the priest, which for his holy zeal for souls had no more return form me than that once I refused him a hare, which he urgently begged from me, on the pretence that since it had hanged itself in a noose and so taken its own life, therefore as self-murderer it might not be buried in a holy place.
Chap. X. : HOW SIMPLICISSIMUS WAS ALL UNEXPECTEDLY QUIT OF HIS MUSQUET
So were things no better with me, but the longer the worse. Once did the colonel say to me he would discharge me for a rogue, since I would do no good. But because I knew he meant it not, I said ‘twas easy enough, if only he would dismiss the hangman too, to bear me company. So he let it pass, for well could he conceive that I should hold it for no punishment but for a favour if he would let me go : and against my will I must remain a musqueteer and starve till the summer. But the nearer Count von Götz came with his army, the nearer came also my deliverance : for when that general had his headquarters at Bruchsal, my friend Herzbruder, that I had so faithfully helped with my money in the camp before Magdeburg3 , was sent by the staff on certain business to our fortress, where all shewed him great honour. I was even then sentry before the colonel’s quarters, and though he wore a coat of black velvet, yet I knew him at first sight, yet had not the heart to speak to him at once, as fearing lest, after the way of the world, he should be ashamed of me or would not know me, for by his clothes he was now of high rank and I but a lousy musqueteer. But as soon as I was relieved I asked of his servants his name and rank, to be assured that I did not address another in his place, and yet I had not the courage to speak to him, but wrote this billet to him and caused it to be handed to him in the morning by his chamberlain.
“Monsieur, etc., --If it should please my worshipful master by his high influence to deliver on whom he once by his bravery saved from bonds and fetters on the field of Wittstock, from the most miserable condition in the world, into which he hath been tossed like a ball by unkind fortune, ‘twould cost him little pains and he would for ever oblige one, in any case his faithful servant but now the most wretched and deserted of men.—S. SIMPICISSIMUS.”
No sooner had he read this than he had me to him and Fellow countryman,” says he, “where is the man that gave thee this?” “Sir,” I answered, “he is a captive in this fortress.” “Well,” says he, “now go to him and say I would deliver him an he had the halter round his neck.” “Sir,” said I, “’twill not need so much trouble, for I am poor Simplicissimus himself, come not only to give thanks for his rescue at Wittstock, but also to beg to be freed from the musquet which I have been forced against my will to carry.” But he suffered me not to make an end, but by embracing me shewed me how ready he was to help me : in a word, he did all that one faithful friend can do for another ; and before he asked me how I came in to the fortress and to such a service, he sent his servant to the Jew to buy me a horse and clothing. And meanwhile I told him how it had fared with me since his father had died before Magdeburg, and when he heard I was the Huntsman of Soest (whose many famous exploits he had heard of) he lamented that he had not known such before, for so the Jew came with a whole burden of soldiers’ clothes, he chose out the best for me, bade me clothe myself, and so took me with him to the colonel. And to him, “Sir,” says he, “I have in your garrison found this good fellow here present, to whom I am so much bounden that I cannot leave him in this low estate even if his good qualities deserved no better : and therefore I beg the colonel to do me this favour, and either to give him a better place or to allow me to take him with me and to further his promotion in the army, for which perhaps the colonel has no great opportunity here.” At that the colonel crossed himself for sheer wonder to hear any man praise me ; and says he, “Your honour will forgive me if I say it is his part to try whether I am willing to serve him so far as his deserts do require : and so far as that goes, let him demand aught else that lies in my power and he shall understand my willingness by my actions. But as to this fellow, he is, according to his own showing, no soldier of mine, but belongs to regiment of dragoons4 , and is besides so pestilent a companion that since he hath been here he hath given more work to my provost than a whole company, so that I must needs believe no water will ever drown him.” So he ended with a laugh and wished me luck.
But for Herzbruder this was not enough but he further begged the colonel not to refuse to invite me to his table, which favour he also obtained : and this he did to the end that he might tell the colonel in my presence what he only know of me by hearsay in Westphalia5 from the Count von der Wahl and the commandment of Soest, all which actions he so praised that all must hold me for a good soldier. And I too carried myself so modestly that the colonel and his people that had known me before could but believe that with my new clothes I had become a new man. Moreover, when the colonel would know how I had gotten the name of doctor, I told them the whole story of my journey from Paris to Philippsburg and how many peasants I had cheated to fill my belly : at which they laughed heartily. And in the end I confessed openly it had been my intention so to vex and weary him, the colonel, with all manner of tricks, that he must at last turn me out of the garrison, if he would live at peace form all the complaints that I caused him. Thereupon he told of many rogueries I had committed while in the garrison, for example, how I had boiled up beans, poured grease over them, and sold the whole for pure grease ; also sand for salt, filling the sacks with sand below and salt above ; and again, how I had made a fool of one here and another there, and had made a jest of every man, so that during the whole meal they spoke only of me. Yet had I not had such a friend at court these same acts would have been held deserving of severe punishment. And so I drew my conclusion how t’would go at court if a rogue should gain a prince’s favour.
Our meal ended, we found the Jew had no horse which would serve
Herzbruder for me : but as he stood in such esteem that the colonel
could hardly afford to lose his good word, therefore he presented us with
one from his own stable, saddle and bridle and all, on which my lord Simplicissimus
was set and with his friend Herzbruder rode joyfully forth from the fortress.
And some of my comrades did cry, “Good luck, brother, good luck,” but others
from envy, “The longer the halter the greater the luck.”
Edited by: Christian Lesnett
1. Philipsburg was a territory highly desired by France during the Thirty Years War. In the treaty signed at Westphalia at the end of the war on October 24, 1648, France gained the right to station troops there and to have free access by way of the Rhine to the city. The city is along the Rhine River in a key location between France and Germany. See Repgen, Konrad. “Negotiating the Peace of Westphalia: A Survey With an Examination of the Major Problems.” 1648: War and Peace in Europe. Ed. Klaus Bussman and Heinz Schilling. Münster? 350 Jahre Westfalischer Friede, 1998. 367-369.
2. A strappado was a machine used to torture individuals in the manner of binding the subject’s hands behind their back with a rope. The rope was then used to hoist them up to stretch and cause severe pain by using the subject’s body weight to inflict pain. See “Torture.” The New Encyclopaedia Britanica: Micropaedia. 1997.
3. Magdeburg was a stronghold of Militant Protestantism. The city was under threat of the Imperial invasion of the Holy Roman Empire. Gustavus Adolphus, the Swedish King in strong opposition to the Empire, made a pact with the city of Magdeburg and the Count of Brandenburg to ally with each other in defense against the Empire. As the Imperial forces besieged the city, Adolphus backed out of the pact, resulting in the city’s capture. The Imperial forces massacred the inhabitants of the city and burned it to the ground on May 20th, 1631. see Langer, Herbert. “The Royal Swedish War in Germany.” 1648: War and Peace in Europe. Ed. Klaus Bussman and Heinz Schilling. Münster? 350 Jahre Westfalischer Friede, 1998. 187-189.
4. Dragoons were companies of soldiers named after their weapon of choice, a short carbine musket. The soldiers were mounted during offensive attacks and were infantrymen during defensive encounters. See “Dragoon.” The New Encyclopaedia Britanica: Micropaedia. 1997.
5. Westphalia was a region in Northwestern Germany. It was in this region that the nations involved in the Thirty Years War established peace by the signing of treaties. The Holy Roman Empire, Sweden, France, and Brandenburg were some of the major nations present. The treaties confirmed physical boundaries of nations, redistributed captured land, and secured religious freedoms to the three major religious communities of Roman Catholicism, Lutheranism, and Calvanism. It also brought sovereign power to many princes throughout Europe, thus limiting the power and influence of the Holy Roman Empire. See “Westphalia” and “Westphalia, Peace of.” The New Encyclopaedia Britanica: Micropaedia. 1997.