The Engraver

What happens when you take the biblical story of Joseph and start it off in the poverty of late nineteenth century Silesia?

After doing all he can to help the failing business of his drunkard brother, the glass engraver, Josef Schramm, is beaten up by him and left for dead. He survives this misfortune and struggles back to health, but can his generosity and humanity survive his return to society?

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Many days and nights passed. Schramm spent them in sleeping, eating and contemplation. Gradually he became stronger. Already he was allowed to sit in a chair for hours and take a few steps around the room on the arm of the old woman.

His inner being was changing.

It was like nature in winter when the sun creeps across the sky with its eyes closed like a sleepwalker, with a pale, drowsy look. The things on earth are standing there alone and trapped, each one at the same time avoiding and being moved by its own cold, heavy anguish and gloom. The wonderful, natural trait of sympathy between them all is torn apart, and likewise death, in which everything shivers, cannot unite them.

The weeping willow stands bowed over the stream. Its crown dithers like a head numbed with pain, and if a light breeze moves it then it swings its long, limp switchs whimpering as though it was flagellating its scrawny body in dull, nameless torment. The stream boils and bubbles in grief, the firs grumble and groan in grim misery. The stone kicked off the path cries out shrill and sharp like the alienated poor thrown into the gutter by hard heartedness.

But everything bears the same death alone, forgotten and timid.

But then if in March the snow thaws, the ice melts, the brown waves roll booming, the happy sky looks down curiously from torn clouds with soulful, deep-blue eyes, and the sun strolls in ever more adventurous arcs in its childish, ripening girl’s beauty, so auspiciously, so alluringly, so coyly veiling her burgeoning charms; then the foreboding of death and loneliness breaks. A wonderful, invisible life, inclination and wishfulness adheres and sputters between things. A mute jubilation rests on the closed lips of the tree buds while the tree stretches its branches to the heavens in the joy of reunion.

Everything hustles and struggles for the expression of a new life of harmony and sweet affiliation.

The observant human spirit sees the living things fettered to the earth toiling to embrace him, to tell him something, to open the base of their being, to propagate. He broods and looks for ideas and concepts, for clarity and only ever rises to the enchanted, adoring, vague exclamat­ion.

The same metamorphosis had taken place in Schramm’s soul. He stood for the second time in a spiritual early spring.


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