Prelude to E.T.A. Hoffmann’s “The Sandman”. Acrylic and colored pencil.
“I was spell-bound on the spot. At the risk of being discovered, and, as I well enough knew, of being severely punished, I remained as I was, with my head thrust through the curtains listening. My father received Coppelius in a ceremonious manner. “Come, to work!” cried the latter, in a hoarse snarling voice, throwing off his coat. Gloomily and silently my father took off his dressing-gown, and both put on long black smock-frocks. Where they took them from I forgot to notice. Father opened the folding-doors of a cupboard in the wall; but I saw that what I had so long taken to be a cupboard was really a dark recess, in which was a little hearth. Coppelius approached it, and a blue flame crackled upwards from it. Round about were all kinds of strange utensils. Good God! as my old father bent down over the fire how different he looked! His gentle and venerable features seemed to be drawn up by some dreadful convulsive pain into an ugly, repulsive Satanic mask. He looked like Coppelius. Coppelius plied the red-hot tongs and drew bright glowing masses out of the thick smoke and began assiduously to hammer them. I fancied that there were men’s faces visible round about, but without eyes, having ghastly deep black holes where the eyes should have been. “Eyes here! Eyes here!” cried Coppelius, in a hollow sepulchral voice. My blood ran cold with horror; I screamed and tumbled out of my hiding-place into the floor. Coppelius immediately seized upon me. “You little brute! You little brute!” he bleated, grinding his teeth. Then, snatching me up, he threw me on the hearth, so that the flames began to singe my hair. “Now we’ve got eyes — eyes — a beautiful pair of children’s eyes,” he whispered, and, thrusting his hands into the flames he took out some red-hot grains and was about to strew t~em into my eyes. Then my father clasped his hands and entreated him, saying, “Master, master, let my Nathanael keep his eyes — oh! do let him keep them.” Coppelius laughed shrilly and replied, “Well then, the boy may keep his eyes and whine and pule his way through the world; but we will now at any rate observe the mechanism of the hand and the foot.” And therewith he roughly laid hold upon me, so that my joints cracked, and twisted my hands and my feet, pulling them now this way, and now that, “That’s not quite right altogether! It’s better as it was! — the old fellow knew what he was about.” Thus lisped and hissed Coppelius; but all around me grew black and dark; a sudden convulsive pain shot through all my nerves and bones I knew nothing more.”-Hoffmann