The wandering student in Paradise

[This page by Madeleine Brook]

Der fahrendt Schuler in Paradeiß; The wandering student in Paradise (1550)

A farmer’s wife complains that her second husband is not as good to her as her first, late husband was. She wonders if there is anything she can do for her first husband now he is dead. At that moment a journeying student (a character who figures in other carnival plays) enters, asking for food and saying he has been to the Venusberg (Venus Mountain) and Paris – both locations, mythical and real respectively, clearly associated with sexual vice:

Ich bin in Venus berg gewesen,

Da hab ich gsehen manchen Buler;


Von Pariß ich erst kummen bin

Itzundt etwa vor dreien tagen.

I have been on the Venus Mountain, there I saw many a lover;


I have just arrived from Paris around three days ago now.

The farmer’s wife mishears ‘Paris’ as ‘paradise’ and begins questioning the student, asking if he saw her first husband there and if he needed anything. The student seizes the opportunity to con her out of money and clothes, telling her that he could take them to her late husband. The gullible wife eagerly takes him up on his offer and sends him on his way with money for the journey as well, including money she has hidden from her second husband. After the student has left, the farmer returns and his wife tells him what she has done and why. The farmer sees through the student’s trick, laments being burdened with such a foolish wife, and swears to repay student and wife with beatings, one for his duplicity, the other to beat the foolishness out of her:

Ich wil nach reitn, thu ich jn erjagen,

So wil ich jm die haudt vol schlagen,

In niederwerffen auff dem feldt,

Im wider nemen Kleidr vnd Gelt,

Darmit wil ich denn heimwartz kern

Vnd mein Weib wol mit feusten bern,

Des ploben geben vmb die augen,

Das sie jr thorheit nit kün laugen.

I will ride after him, hunt him down,

so I can beat his skin black and blue,

throw him down in the field,

take the clothes and money back from him; and then I will return home with them

and set on my wife with my fists,

put the blue into her eyes,

so she can’t deny her foolishness.

However, the farmer, too, falls for the student’s tricks: the student sees the farmer coming and has time to disguise himself. He gives the farmer false directions, so that he has to leave his horse behind. This animal then also falls into the hands of the student and the farmer realises his error too late. Now it is his turn to lament his own foolishness, but he is too ashamed to reveal it to his wife:

Der gröst Narr ich auff erden bin,

Das ich traudt diesem Schalck vertrogen.

Schaw, dort kumbt auch mein Weib herzogen,

Ich darff jr wol vom Roß nit sagen,

Ich troet jr vor hart zu schlagen,

Das sie so einfeltig het eben

Dem lantzpscheissr das dinglich geben,

Vnd ich gab jm doch selb das Pferdt,

Viel grösser streich wer ich wol werdt,

Weil ich mich klüger dünck von sinnen.

I am the greatest fool on earth

for having been tricked by this rogue.

Look, here comes my wife,

I mustn’t tell her anything about the horse –

I threatened to beat her hard

for being so simple as to give those things

to that swindling shit

and yet I handed over my horse to him myself!

I certainly deserve even harsher blows

because I thought I had much better sense.

So the farmer pretends to his wife that he has given his horse to the student so that he may reach paradise all the faster to hand over the clothes and money to the deceased husband. But when he tries to impress upon his wife the necessity of secrecy, he finds it is too late: his wife has already told the whole village about what she has done. The farmer speaks the closing moralising verses:

Der Man kan wol von vnglück sagen,

Der mit eim solchn Weib ist erschlagen,


Der muß er lign im zaum geweltig,

Das sie nicht verwarloß sein gut.

Doch weil sie hat ein trewen muht,

Kan er sie dester baß gedulden,

Wan es kumbt auch gar offt zu schulden,

Das dem Mann auch entschlupfft ein fuß,


Das er auch ist nit weyß genug.

Denn zieh man schad gen schaden ab,

Darmit man friedt im Ehstandt hab

Vnd keyn vneinigkeyt auff wachs;

Das wünschet vns allen Hans Sachs.

A man may well speak of his misfortune

at being burdened with such a wife


whom he must rein in sharply

to make sure she does not ruin him.

But because she has a loyal nature,

he can bear this in her all the more easily,

for it often also comes to pass that a man slips up and it turns out


that he isn’t so wise either.

So cancel out loss with loss

to keep peace in marriage

and so no discord arises

– so bids us all Hans Sachs.

Although this 323-line play deals principally with gender relations in marriage, as the final lines indicate, its underlying subject matter is a serious Reformation issue: good works and intercession on behalf of the dead, which are Catholic practices. The gullible, clearly unconverted, wife still believes that she can improve the lot of her first husband in ‘paradise’ by sending him things from this world – the items she sends could just as well be prayers or payment for masses to be said. Her husband, evidently more worldly and probably an adherent of the Reformation, quickly sees through the trick, although he then fails to see through a mundane disguise when he pursues the student. Although he has threatened to cure his wife’s foolishness with violence, he is prevented from this by having his own foolishness highlighted. Similarly to Sachs’s dialogue, Ain gesprech eins Evangelischen christen mit einem Lutherischen; The conversation of an Evangelical Christian with a Lutheran, the message is that patience in the relationship is the greater virtue, in this case because although the husband is the wiser of the two, this does not mean that he is totally immune from error.

Source (with kind permission):