The Ugly Thing in Life is Set Up….

It is strange how curiosity sets you down a path that you do not expect. From childhood I have been fascinated by a set of six embossed postcards that my father brought home from Germany after the Second World War. Like many of his generation, he did not like to speak of those times and the postcards were kept in an envelope inside his desk, only to be taken out and looked at on rare occasions. Consequently, the colours are as rich today as when they were first printed. I found them again recently, tucked away and near forgotten, for my father died 30 years ago and my mother more recently. And these days, what do we do when we are curious – we Google. First searches threw up nothing until I entered the text Das is im Leben hässlich eingerichtet which, translating to The ugly thing in life is set up, whilst sounding not very promising, turned out to reveal part of an epic poem by Joseph Victor von Scheffel, written in 1853. Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of him either! The poem was The Trumpeter of Säckingen.

The town of Bad Säckingen (the Bad was added to the name in 1978) is in southern Germany on the banks of the Rhine, between the Black Forest and the Swiss border. In 1854 von Scheffel published his epic but it was not until some years later that it became popular. By 1884 it had been turned into an opera with music by Nessler and in 1918 a silent movie had been filmed using over 200 local people as extras. The opera is still performed today at the open air festival (Festspielgemeinde) in the town. There is also a museum devoted to Scheffel and the Trumpeter.
So who was the Trumpeter? Franz Werner Kirchofer was born in 1633, of common birth, who fell in love with Maria (Margarethe), the daughter of a noble family that resided in the town’s castle. Against all the family’s wishes the couple were finally married in 1657, raising five children. Their gravestone beside the cathedral tells the story of their love – a truly romantic tale and one with a happy ending. The castle still stands, now owned by the town, and is surrounded by public park and gardens, it also houses the Trumpeter museum.
A trip to Germany now seems probable at some time in the future so that I can see the castle that I first came across fifty years ago but only very recently knew existed. The power of the internet, as we all often mention in our blogs, never fails to throw up surprises. And it led me to the town’s interesting website where much of this information has been found. The postcards, by the way, which aren’t shown in any particular order, date back to 1910.

I leave the last words to von Scheffel: it seems appropriate to print it in its native tongue. If you want the English version or more verses, Google it!

Das ist im Leben häßlich eingerichtet ♦ Daß bei den Rosen gleich die Dornen steh´n ♦ Und was das arme Herz auch sehnt und dichtet ♦ Zum Schluße kommt das Voneinandergehn ♦ In deinen Augen hab ich einst gelesen ♦ Es blitzte drin von Lieb und Glück ein Schein: ♦ Behüt dich Gott, es wär so schön gewesen ♦ Behüt dich Gott, es hat nicht sollen sein

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5 thoughts on “The Ugly Thing in Life is Set Up….

  1. How beautiful! I love these…I also have old postcards but not as interesting a story as yours. I bought them on a trip 🙂 but you've given me the idea to post them. I also hope we will see pictures of your future trip to Germany! Don't you love the internet? 🙂

  2. Pingback: A Great Game? | Life in the English Cotswolds

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