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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Tale. How the Devil Took to Himself an Old Wife
By Hans Sachs (1494–1576)
Translation of Frank Sewall

ONE day the Devil came to earth,
To try what is a husband’s worth:
And so an aged wife he wed;
Rich but not fair, it must be said.
But soon as they two married were,        5
There rose but wretchedness and fear.
The old wife spent the livelong day
In nagging him in every way;
Nor could he rest when came the night,
For so the fleas and bugs did bite.        10
He thought, Sure here I cannot stay,—
To wood and desert I’ll away;
There shall I find the rest I need.
So fled he out, and with all speed
Into the wood, and sat him down        15
Upon a tree, when passed from town
A doctor with his traveling-sack
Of remedies upon his back.
To him the Devil now did speak:—
“We both are doctors, and do seek        20
Men of their troubles to relieve,
And in one fashion, I believe.”
“Who are you?” then the doctor said.—
“The Devil: and woe be on my head,
That I have taken to me a wife,        25
That makes a torment of my life;
Therefore take me to be your slave,
And I will handsomely behave.”
He showed the doctor then the way
That he his devilish arts could play.        30
In short, they soon agreed, and so
The Devil said:—“Now I will go
Unto a burgher in your town,
Who’s rich enough to buy a crown:
And I will give him such a pain        35
That soon as you come by again,
You enter in, and pray me out;
That is, upon a ransom stout,—
Some twenty gulden fair laid down,
At which the rich man will not frown.        40
So then between yourself and me
The money even shared shall be.”

  [The tale goes on to state how the plot was successfully carried out. The doctor, however, obtaining thirty instead of twenty gulden for his reward, thought to deceive the Devil, whom he found again in the wood; and he offered him the ten gulden as his share, retaining the twenty for himself. The Devil detecting the doctor’s trick, to avenge himself purposes now to go and infest with pain the rich owner of a fortress near by; which being done, and the doctor being called in to allay the dreadful pain in the baron’s stomach, the Devil now refuses to come out. In this unlooked-for emergency, the doctor now bethinks himself of the Devil’s wife: and running into the chamber he cries out to the Devil, telling him that his wife is down-stairs with a summons from the court of justice, bidding him return to his marital duty; whereupon the Devil is so frightened that he flees without more delay, and hastens back to hell and to his companions there, where he finds more rest than he could ever hope to in the house of the old woman he had taken as a wife. Thereupon the poet adds this:—]

BY this tale every one shall know
How it with man and wife will go,
When every day there’s quarreling,        45
And neither yields in the least thing,
But ever one the other scolds,
In fear and hate and anger holds,
With endless fretting and complaining,
No peace nor sunshine entertaining.        50
Truly such married life might be
Of devils in hell for aught we see.
From which may God keep us away,
And grant us rather in our day,
In marriage peace and unity,        55
And kindness’s opportunity,
That to this virtue e’er may wax
True wedded love,—so prays Hans Sachs.

  Anno Salut. 1557. On the 13th day of July.

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