Letter to Peter Rother, burgher of Prague, accompanying the
recently composed opuscule Husbandman.
The predisposed to the well-disposed, the dedicated
to the devoted, the companion to the compeer, Johannes von Tepl to Peter von
Tepl, the burgher of Saaz to the burgher of Prague, friendly and brotherly love.
which united us men in blossoming youth, admonishes and compels me, in thinking
of you, to offer words of consolation and dedicate to you that novelty which
you have recently desired through Me.
von Z. from the field of edifying rhetoric, at which I, after missing the
harvest, have gleaned some ears.
Consequently I proffer you this untended and rustic concoction, pieced
together from German chatter, which comes fresh from the anvil. Yet in it you will find, on account of
the great matter undertaken, an attack on Death’s ineluctable destiny in which
the essentials of rhetoric find expression. Here a long subject is abridged, here a
short one is protracted; herein is contained praise and reproach of things,
even now and then of one and the same thing. Here can be found clipped syntax,
balanced expressions, equivocation together with sameness of sense. Here is a stream of phrases, clauses,
and periods in a novel style. Here
they act, now abiding at one locus, now in ranked progression. Parable performs her duty,
Declamation attacks and assuages,
Irony smiles, and decorative words and sentences reign with the figures of
speech of their office.
Furthermore, many other, and so to speak all, ingredients of the orator’s
art that are possible in our inflexible language, even the untended ones, take
effect here, as the observant reader will discover. To conclude I shall refresh you with
some of the Latin ears that jut in my unfruitful field.
Given under the authorisation of my seal on the Eve of blessed
Bartholomew in the year 1428.
letter dates from 1404 at the latest; 1428 is a scribal error.
was composed in Latin; I have translated from Genzler’s German rendition. He does not supply the original. The opening address relies on
inflectional case endings: ‘Dem Geneigten der Geneigte, dem Ergebenen der
English having lost nearly all of its inflections, I sought to reproduce
the effect through synonyms of similar sound.
to the Husbandman