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Reformation Couplets

by  michwo

Posted: Sunday, October 22, 2017
Word Count: 511
Summary: These are taken from a long poem in German written in rhyming couplets by the Swiss writer C.F.Meyer about the final days of the Reformer Ulrich von Hutten (1488-1523) who died on an island in Lake Zurich after leading a Knights' Revolt against the Archbishop of Trier.

Stall for the Sale of Indulgences
"Why does the pope, whose wealth today is greater than the wealth of the richest Croesus, build the basilica of St. Peter with the money of poor believers rather than with his own money?" (Martin Luther: Thesis 86 of 95)
I cried:  Men, lend a hand and help me out.
To make the Pope rich this stall’s all about!
If only money buys eternal life
Indulgences will everywhere be rife.
These wares both young and old will loud demand
And paupers by their lack of funds be damned.
Turn out your pockets!  Are they empty?  Then
Be bold enough to join us, lucky men!
Take my advice, redemption-hungry breed,
No signed indulgence chit to wave you need!
Our path to heaven’s not denied or barred!
Salvation is a present not a card!
I spoke a raucous language in my haste.
And yet my warning did not go to waste.
My answer came back in a righteous din:
“We’ll break these tables, not condone a sin!”
The Bible in German
A joyful day as, stretched out in the mead,
I Martin Luther’s German scripture read.
I love to listen, Luther, to the lilt
Of speech that no-one more than you has built.
Hidden behind walls with green overgrown
New Bible, new German, both strong as stone.
I read and ancient stories from the East
Become incarnate right down to the least.
I hear the Saviour as He teaches me
From fishing boat upon Lake Galilee.
Perhaps He wanders out there by the shore
Through high corn down a hidden path, footsore.
A monk no longer, Luther broke his vows –
No more to fate or fellow men he bows!
He feels the massive fault-line of these days
And fast he clings to Holy Writ always.
The past, the future struggle in his soul
Like wrestlers who, sore panting, give their all.
There where the village stream falls in the lake
A crowd is seething, children in its wake.
They images of saints with a great shout
From a small church are dragging roughly out,
Removing what their forebears had amassed
To topple in the stream: their time was past.
The current carried off the stony dross,
And martyrs’ wounds were permanently lost.
Relics, votive offerings, stumps of wax
To be borne by the brisk brook were not lax.
And then I of a statue grew aware,
Heavy to lift - it took of men a pair,
And I was shocked.  It was a tender form:
The Virgin Mary smiled a smile so warm
And gazed so touchingly upon this zoo
As if to say:  “What have I done to you?”
How came this work to this parish church small?
In Nuremberg none better I recall.
You felt that a master’s effort and love
Had gone to create it, blessed from above.
To wantonly destroy a work of art
Is heinous!  I felt forced to stand apart.
But did I stop them?  No, I have to say.
With such idolatry we must away.