Part 2 out of 10
It was a dream.
In German I was kissed, in German told
(You scarce would deem
How sweetly rang the words): "I love thee well!--"
It was a dream.
* * * * *
THE SPHINX (1839)
It is the fairy forest old,
With lime-tree blossoms scented!
The moonshine with its mystic light
My soul and sense enchanted.
On, on I roamed, and, as I went,
Sweet music o'er me rose there;
It is the nightingale--she sings
Of love and lovers' woes there.
She sings of love and lovers' woes,
Hearts blest, and hearts forsaken:
So sad is her mirth, so glad her sob,
Dreams long forgot awaken.
Still on I roamed, and, as I went,
I saw before me lowering
On a great wide lawn a stately pile,
With gables peaked and towering.
Closed were its windows, everywhere
A hush, a gloom, past telling;
It seemed as though silent Death within
These empty halls were dwelling.
A Sphinx lay there before the door,
Half-brutish and half-human,
A lioness in trunk and claws,
In head and breasts a woman.
A lovely woman! The pale cheek
Spoke of desires that wasted;
The hushed lips curved into a smile,
That wooed them to be tasted.
The nightingale so sweetly sang,
I yielded to their wooing;
And as I kissed that winning face,
I sealed my own undoing.
The marble image thrilled with life,
The stone began to quiver;
She drank my kisses' burning flame
With fierce convulsive shiver.
She almost drank my breath away;
And, to her passion bending,
She clasped me close, with her lion claws
My hapless body rending.
Delicious torture, rapturous pang!
The pain, the bliss, unbounded!
Her lips, their kiss was heaven to me,
Her claws, oh, how they wounded.
The nightingale sang: "O beauteous Sphinx!
O love, love! say, why this is,
That with the anguish of death itself
Thou minglest all thy blisses?
"Oh beauteous Sphinx, oh, answer me,
That riddle strange unloosing!
For many, many thousand years
Have I on it been musing!"
Germany's still a little child,
But he's nursed by the sun, though tender;
He is not suckled on soothing milk,
But on flames of burning splendor.
One grows apace on such a diet;
It fires the blood from languor.
Ye neighbors' children, have a care
This urchin how ye anger!
He is an awkward infant giant;
The oak by the roots uptearing,
He'll beat you till your backs are sore,
And crack your crowns for daring.
He is like Siegfried, the noble child,
That song-and-saga wonder;
Who, when his fabled sword was forged,
His anvil cleft in sunder!
To you, who will our Dragon slay,
Shall Siegfried's strength be given.
Hurrah! how joyfully your nurse
Will laugh on you from heaven!
The Dragon's hoard of royal gems
You'll win, with none to share it.
Hurrah! how bright the golden crown
Will sparkle when you wear it!
* * * * *
ENFANT PERDU (1851)
In Freedom's War, of "Thirty Years" and more,
A lonely outpost have I held--in vain!
With no triumphant hope or prize in store,
Without a thought to see my home again.
I watched both day and night; I could not sleep
Like my well-tented comrades far behind,
Though near enough to let their snoring keep
A friend awake, if e'er to doze inclined.
And thus, when solitude my spirits shook,
Or fear--for all but fools know fear sometimes--
To rouse myself and them, I piped and took
A gay revenge in all my wanton rhymes.
Yes! there I stood, my musket always ready,
And when some sneaking rascal showed his head,
My eye was vigilant, my aim was steady,
And gave his brains an extra dose of lead.
But war and justice have far different laws,
And worthless acts are often done right well;
The rascals' shots were better than their cause,
And I was hit--and hit again, and fell!
That outpost is abandoned; while the one
Lies in the dust, the rest in troops depart;
Unconquered--I have done what could be done,
With sword unbroken, and with broken heart.
* * * * *
THE BATTLEFIELD OF HASTINGS (1855)
Deeply the Abbot of Waltham sighed
When he heard the news of woe:
How King Harold had come to a pitiful end,
And on Hastings field lay low.
Asgod and Ailrik, two of his monks,
On the mission drear he sped
To search for the corse on the battle-plain
Among the bloody dead.
The monks arose and went sadly forth,
And returned as heavy-hearted.
"O Father, the world's a bitter world,
And evil days have started.
"For fallen, alack! is the better man;
The Bastard has won, and knaves
And scutcheoned thieves divide the land,
And make the freemen slaves.
"The veriest rascals from Normandy,
In Britain are lords and sirs.
I saw a tailor from Bayeux ride
With a pair of golden spurs.
"O woe to all who are Saxon born!
Ye Saxon saints, beware!
For high in heaven though ye dwell,
Shame yet may be your share.
"Ah, now we know what the comet meant
That rode, blood-red and dire,
Across the midnight firmament
This year on a broom of fire.
"'Twas an evil star, and Hastings' field
Has fulfilled the omen dread.
We went upon the battle-plain,
And sought among the dead.
"While still there lingered any hope
We sought, but sought in vain;
King Harold's corse we could not find
Among the bloody slain."
Asgod and Ailrik spake and ceased.
The Abbot wrung his hands.
Awhile he pondered, then he sighed,
"Now mark ye my commands.
"By the stone of the bard at Grendelfield,
Just midway through the wood,
One, Edith of the Swan's Neck, dwells
In a hovel poor and rude.
"They named her thus, because her neck
Was once as slim and white
As any swan's--when, long ago,
She was the king's delight.
"He loved and kissed, forsook, forgot,
For such is the way of men.
Time runs his course with a rapid foot;
It is sixteen years since then.
"To this woman, brethren, ye shall go,
And she will follow you fain
To the battle-field; the woman's eye
Will not seek the king in vain.
"Thereafter to Waltham Abbey here
His body ye shall bring,
That Christian burial he may have,
While for his soul we sing."
The messengers reached the hut in the wood
At the hour of midnight drear.
"Wake, Edith of the Swan's Neck, rise
And follow without fear.
"The Duke of Normandy has won
The battle, to our bane.
On the field of Hastings, where he fought,
The king is lying slain.
"Arise and come with us; we seek
His body among the dead.
To Waltham Abbey it shall be borne.
'Twas thus our Abbot said."
The woman arose and girded her gown,
And silently went behind
The hurrying monks. Her grizzly hair
Streamed wildly on the wind.
Barefoot through bog and bush and briar
She followed and did not stay,
Till Hastings and the cliffs of chalk
They saw at dawn of day.
The mist, that like a sheet of white
The field of battle cloaked,
Melted anon; with hideous din
The daws flew up and croaked.
In thousands on the bloody plain
Lay strewn the piteous corses,
Wounded and torn and maimed and stripped,
Among the fallen horses.
The woman stopped not for the blood;
She waded barefoot through,
And from her fixed and staring eyes
The arrowy glances flew.
Long, with the panting monks behind,
And pausing but to scare
The greedy ravens from their food,
She searched with eager care.
She searched and toiled the livelong day,
Until the night was nigh;
Then sudden from her breast there burst
A shrill and awful cry.
For on the battle-field at last
His body she had found.
She kissed, without a tear or word,
The wan face on the ground.
She kissed his brow, she kissed his mouth,
She clasped him close, and pressed
Her poor lips to the bloody wounds
That gaped upon his breast.
His shoulder stark she kisses too,
When, searching, she discovers
Three little scars her teeth had made
When they were happy lovers.
The monks had been and gotten boughs,
And of these boughs they made
A simple bier, whereon the corse
Of the fallen king was laid.
To Waltham Abbey to his tomb
The king was thus removed;
And Edith of the Swan's Neck walked
By the body that she loved.
She chanted litanies for his soul
With a childish, weird lament
That shuddered through the night. The monks
Prayed softly as they went.
* * * * *
THE ASRA (1855)
Every evening in the twilight,
To and fro beside the fountain
Where the waters whitely murmured,
Walked the Sultan's lovely daughter.
And a youth, a slave, was standing
Every evening by the fountain
Where the waters whitely murmured;
And his cheek grew pale and paler.
Till one eve the lovely princess
Paused and asked him on a sudden:
"I would know thy name and country;
I would know thy home and kindred."
And the slave replied, "Mohammed
Is my name; my home is Yemen;
And my people are the Asras;
When they love, they love and die."
* * * * *
THE PASSION FLOWER (1856)
I dreamt that once upon a summer night
Beneath the pallid moonlight's eerie glimmer
I saw where, wrought in marble dimly bright,
A ruin of the Renaissance did shimmer.
Yet here and there, in simple Doric form,
A pillar like some solitary giant
Rose from the mass, and, fearless of the storm,
Reared toward the firmament its head defiant.
O'er all that place a heap of wreckage lay,
Triglyphs and pediments and carven portals,
With centaur, sphinx, chimera, satyrs gay--
Figures of fabled monsters and of mortals.
A marble-wrought sarcophagus reposed
Unharmed 'mid fragments of these fabled creatures;
Its lidless depth a dead man's form inclosed,
The pain-wrung face now calm with softened features.
A group of straining caryatides
With steadfast neck the casket's weight supported,
Along both sides whereof there ran a frieze
Of chiseled figures, wondrous ill-assorted.
First one might see where, decked in bright array,
A train of lewd Olympians proudly glided,
Then Adam and Dame Eve, not far away,
With fig-leaf aprons modestly provided.
Next came the people of the Trojan war--
Paris, Achilles, Helen, aged Nestor;
Moses and Aaron, too, with many more--
As Judith, Holofernes, Haman, Esther.
Such forms as Cupid's one could likewise see,
Phoebus Apollo, Vulcan, Lady Venus,
Pluto and Proserpine and Mercury,
God Bacchus and Priapus and Silenus.
Among the rest of these stood Balaam's ass--
A speaking likeness (if you will, a braying)--
And Abraham's sacrifice, and there, alas!
Lot's daughters, too, their drunken sire betraying.
Near by them danced the wanton Salome,
To whom John's head was carried in a charger;
Then followed Satan, writhing horribly,
And Peter with his keys--none e'er seemed larger
Changing once more, the sculptor's cunning skill
Showed lustful Jove misusing his high power,
When as a swan he won fair Leda's will,
And conquered Danae in a golden shower.
Here was Diana, leading to the chase
Her kilted nymphs, her hounds with eyeballs burning;
And here was Hercules in woman's dress,
His warlike hand the peaceful distaff turning.
Not far from them frowned Sinai, bleak and wild,
Along whose slope lay Israel's nomad nation;
Next, one might see our Savior as a child
Amid the elders holding disputation.
Thus were these opposites absurdly blent--
The Grecian joy of living with the godly
Judean cast of thought!--while round them bent
The ivy's tendrils, intertwining oddly.
But--wonderful to say!--while dreamily
I gazed thereon with glance returning often,
Sudden methought that I myself was he,
The dead man in the splendid marble coffin.
Above the coffin by my head there grew
A flower for a symbol sweet and tragic,
Violet and sulphur-yellow was its hue,
It seemed to throb with love's mysterious magic.
Tradition says, when Christ was crucified
On Calvary, that in that very hour
These petals with the Savior's blood were dyed,
And therefore is it named the passion-flower.
The hue of blood, they say, its blossom wears,
And all the instruments of human malice
Used at the crucifixion still it bears
In miniature within its tiny chalice.
Whatever to the Passion's rite belongs,
Each tool of torture here is represented
The crown of thorns, cup, nails and hammer, thongs,
The cross on which our Master was tormented.
'Twas such a flower at my tomb did stand,
Above my lifeless form in sorrow bending,
And, like a mourning woman, kissed my hand,
My brow and eyes, with silent grief contending.
And then--O witchery of dreams most strange!--
By some occult and sudden transformation
This flower to a woman's shape did change--
'Twas she I loved with soul-deep adoration!
'Twas thou in truth, my dearest, only thou;
I knew thee by thy kisses warm and tender.
No flower-lips thus softly touched my brow,
Such burning tears no flower's cup might render!
Mine eyes were shut, and yet my soul could see
Thy steadfast countenance divinely beaming,
As, calm with rapture, thou didst gaze on me,
Thy features in the spectral moonlight gleaming.
We did not speak, and yet my heart could tell
The hidden thoughts that thrilled within thy bosom.
No chaste reserve in spoken words may dwell--
With silence Love puts forth its purest blossom.
A voiceless dialogue! one scarce might deem,
While mute we thus communed in tender fashion,
How time slipped by like some seraphic dream
Of night, all woven of joy and fear-sweet passion.
Ah, never ask of us what then we said;
Ask what the glow-worm glimmers to the grasses,
Or what the wavelet murmurs in its bed,
Or what the west wind whispers as it passes.
Ask what rich lights from carbuncles outstream,
What perfumed thoughts o'er rose and violet hover--
But never ask what, in the moonlight's beam,
The sacred flower breathed to her dead lover.
I cannot tell how long a time I lay,
Dreaming the ecstasy of joys Elysian,
Within my marble shrine. It fled away--
The rapture of that calm untroubled vision.
Death, with thy grave-deep stillness, thou art best,
Delight's full cup thy hand alone can proffer;
The war of passions, pleasure without rest--
Such boons are all that vulgar life can offer.
Alas! a sudden clamor put to flight
My bliss, and all my comfort rudely banished;
'Twas such a screaming, ramping, raging fight
That mid the uproar straight my flower vanished.
Then on all sides began a savage war
Of argument, with scolding and with jangling.
Some voices surely I had heard before--
Why, 'twas my bas-reliefs had fall'n a-wrangling!
Do old delusions haunt these marbles here,
And urge them on to frantic disputations?
The terror-striking shout of Pan rings clear,
While Moses hurls his stern denunciations.
Alack! the wordy strife will have no end,
Beauty and Truth will ever be at variance,
A schism still the ranks of man will rend
Into two camps, the Hellenes and Barbarians.
Both parties thus reviled and cursed away,
And none who heard could tell the why or whether,
Till Balaam's ass at last began to bray
And soon outbawled both gods and saints together.
With strident-sobbing hee-haw, hee-haw there--
His unremitting discords without number--
That beast so nearly brought me to despair
That I cried out--and wakened from my slumber.
* * * * *
THE JOURNEY TO THE HARZ (1824)
BY HEINRICH HEINE
TRANSLATED BY CHARLES GODFREY LELAND
"Nothing is permanent but change, nothing constant but death. Every
pulsation of the heart inflicts a wound, and life would be an endless
bleeding were it not for Poetry. She secures to us what Nature would
deny--a golden age without rust, a spring which never fades, cloudless
prosperity and eternal youth."--BOeRNE.
Black dress coats and silken stockings,
Snowy ruffles frilled with art,
Gentle speeches and embraces--
Oh, if they but held a heart!
Held a heart within their bosom,
Warmed by love which truly glows;
Ah! I'm wearied with their chanting
Of imagined lovers' woes!
I will climb upon the mountains,
Where the quiet cabin stands,
Where the wind blows freely o'er us,
Where the heart at ease expands.
I will climb upon the mountains,
Where the sombre fir-trees grow;
Brooks are rustling, birds are singing,
And the wild clouds headlong go.
Then farewell, ye polished ladies,
Polished men and polished hall!
I will climb upon the mountains,
Smiling down upon you all.
The town of Goettingen, celebrated for its sausages and its University,
belongs to the King of Hanover, and contains nine hundred and
ninety-nine dwellings, divers churches, a lying-in hospital, an
observatory, a prison for students, a library, and a "Ratskeller," where
the beer is excellent. The stream which flows by the town is called the
Leine, and is used in summer for bathing, its waters being very cold,
and in more than one place it is so broad that Lueder was obliged to take
quite a run ere he could leap across. The town itself is beautiful, and
pleases most when one's back is turned to it. It must be very ancient,
for I well remember that five years ago, when I matriculated there (and
shortly after received notice to quit), it had already the same gray,
prim look, and was fully furnished with catch-polls, beadles,
dissertations, _thes dansants_, washerwomen, compendiums, roasted
pigeons, Guelphic orders, graduation coaches, pipe-heads,
court-councilors, law-councilors, expelling councilors, professors
ordinary and extraordinary. Many even assert that, at the time of the
Great Migrations, every German tribe left behind in the town a loosely
bound copy of itself in the person of one of its members, and that from
these descended all the Vandals, Frisians, Suabians, Teutons, Saxons,
Thuringians, and others, who at the present day still abound in
Goettingen, where, separately distinguished by the color of their caps
and pipe-tassels, they may be seen straying singly or in hordes along
the Weender Street. They still fight their battles on the bloody arena
of the _Rasenmill, Ritschenkrug_, and _Bovden_, still preserve the mode
of life peculiar to their savage ancestors, and still, as at the time of
the migrations, are governed partly by their _Duces_, whom they call
"chief cocks," and partly by their primevally ancient law-book, known as
the _Comment_, which fully deserves a place among the _leges
The inhabitants of Goettingen are generally divided into Students,
Professors, Philistines, and Cattle, the points of difference between
these castes being by no means strictly defined. The "Cattle" class is
the most important. I might be accused of prolixity should I here
enumerate the names of all the students and of all the regular and
irregular professors; besides, I do not just at present distinctly
remember the appellations of all the former gentlemen; while among the
professors are many who as yet have no name at all. The number of the
Goettingen "Philistines" must be as numerous as the sands (or, more
correctly speaking, as the mud) of the seashore; indeed, when I beheld
them of a morning, with their dirty faces and clean bills, planted
before the gate of the collegiate court of justice, I wondered greatly
that such an innumerable pack of rascals should ever have been created
by the Almighty.
[Illustration: MARKET PLACE GOeTTINGEN]
* * * * *
It was as yet very early in the morning when I left Goettingen, and the
learned ----, beyond doubt, still lay in bed, dreaming as usual that he
wandered in a fair garden, amid the beds of which grew innumerable white
papers written over with citations. On these the sun shone cheerily, and
he plucked up several here and there and laboriously planted them in new
beds, while the sweetest songs of the nightingales rejoiced his old
Before the Weender Gate I met two small native schoolboys, one of whom
was saying to the other, "I don't intend to keep company any more with
Theodore; he is a low blackguard, for yesterday he didn't even know the
genitive of _Mensa_." Insignificant as these words may appear, I still
regard them as entitled to be recorded--nay, I would even write them as
town-motto on the gate of Goettingen, for the young birds pipe as the old
ones sing, and the expression accurately indicates the narrow, petty
academic pride so characteristic of the "highly learned" Georgia
Augusta. The fresh morning air blew over the highroad, the birds
sang cheerily, and, little by little, with the breeze and the birds, my
mind also became fresh and cheerful. Such refreshment was sorely needed
by one who had long been confined in the Pandect stable. Roman casuists
had covered my soul with gray cobwebs; my heart was as though jammed
between the iron paragraphs of selfish systems of jurisprudence; there
was an endless ringing in my ears of such sounds as "Tribonian,
Justinian, Hermogenian, and Blockheadian," and a sentimental brace of
lovers seated under a tree appeared to me like an edition of the _Corpus
Juris_ with closed clasps. The road began to take on a more lively
appearance. Milkmaids occasionally passed, as did also donkey-drivers
with their gray pupils. Beyond Weende I met the "Shepherd" and "Doris."
This is not the idyllic pair sung by Gessner, but the duly and
comfortably appointed university beadles, whose duty it is to keep watch
and ward so that no students fight duels in Bovden, and, above all, that
no new ideas (such as are generally obliged to remain in quarantine for
several decades outside of Goettingen) are smuggled in by speculative
private lecturers. Shepherd greeted me as one does a colleague, for he,
too, is an author, who has frequently mentioned my name in his
semi-annual writings. In addition to this, I may mention that when, as
was frequently the case, he came to cite me before the university court
and found me "not at home," he was always kind enough to write the
citation with chalk upon my chamber door. Occasionally a one-horse
vehicle rolled along, well packed with students, who were leaving for
the vacation or forever.
In such a university town there is an endless coming and going. Every
three years beholds a new student-generation, forming an incessant human
tide, where one semester-wave succeeds another, and only the old
professors stand fast in the midst of this perpetual-motion flood,
immovable as the pyramids of Egypt. Only in these university pyramids no
treasures of wisdom are buried.
From out the myrtle bushes, by Rauschenwasser, I saw two hopeful youths
appear ... singing charmingly the Rossinian lay of "Drink beer, pretty,
pretty 'Liza!" These sounds I continued to hear when far in the
distance, and after I had long lost sight of the amiable vocalists, as
their horses, which appeared to be gifted with characters of extreme
German deliberation, were spurred and lashed in a most excruciating
style. In no place is the skinning alive of horses carried to such an
extent as in Goettingen; and often, when I beheld some lame and sweating
hack, which, to earn the scraps of fodder which maintained his wretched
life, was obliged to endure the torment of some roaring blade, or draw a
whole wagon-load of students, I reflected: "Unfortunate beast! Most
certainly thy first ancestors, in some horse-paradise, did eat of
* * * * *
Beyond Noerten the sun flashed high in heaven. His intentions toward me
were evidently good, and he warmed my brain until all the unripe
thoughts which it contained came to full growth. The pleasant Sun Tavern
in Noerten is not to be despised, either; I stopped there and found
dinner ready. All the dishes were excellent and suited me far better
than the wearisome, academical courses of saltless, leathery dried fish
and cabbage _rechauffe_, which were served to me in Goettingen. After I
had somewhat appeased my appetite, I remarked in the same room of the
tavern a gentle man and two ladies, who were about to depart. The
cavalier was clad entirely in green; he even had on a pair of green
spectacles which cast a verdigris tinge upon his copper-red nose. The
gentleman's general appearance was like what we may presume King
Nebuchadnezzar's to have been in his later years, when, according to
tradition, he ate nothing but salad, like a beast of the forest. The
Green One requested me to recommend him to a hotel in Goettingen, and I
advised him, when there, to inquire of the first convenient student for
the Hotel de Bruebach. One lady was evidently his wife--an altogether
extensively constructed dame, gifted with a rubicund square mile of
countenance, with dimples in her cheeks which looked like spittoons for
cupids. A copious double chin appeared below, like an imperfect
continuation of the face, while her high-piled bosom, which was defended
by stiff points of lace and a many-cornered collar, as if by turrets and
bastions, reminded one of a fortress. Still, it is by no means certain
that this fortress would have resisted an ass laden with gold, any more
than did that of which Philip of Macedon spoke. The other lady, her
sister, seemed her extreme antitype. If the one were descended from
Pharaoh's fat kine, the other was as certainly derived from the lean.
Her face was but a mouth between two ears; her breast was as
inconsolably comfortless and dreary as the Lueneburger heath; while her
absolutely dried-up figure reminded one of a charity table for poor
theological students. Both ladies asked me, in a breath, if respectable
people lodged in the Hotel de Bruebach. I assented to this question with
a clear conscience, and as the charming trio drove away I waved my hand
to them many times from the window. The landlord of The Sun laughed,
however, in his sleeve, being probably aware that the Hotel de Bruebach
was a name bestowed by the students of Goettingen upon their university
Beyond Nordheim mountain ridges begin to appear, and the traveler
occasionally meets with a picturesque eminence. The wayfarers whom I
encountered were principally peddlers, traveling to the Brunswick fair,
and among them there was a group of women, every one of whom bore on her
back an incredibly large cage nearly as high as a house, covered over
with white linen. In this cage were every variety of singing birds,
which continually chirped and sung, while their bearers merrily hopped
along and chattered together. It seemed droll thus to behold one bird
carrying others to market.
The night was as dark as pitch when I entered Osterode. I had no
appetite for supper, and at once went to bed. I was as tired as a dog
and slept like a god. In my dreams I returned to Goettingen and found
myself in the library. I stood in a corner of the Hall of Jurisprudence,
turning over old dissertations, lost myself in reading, and, when I
finally looked up, remarked to my astonishment that it was night and
that the hall was illuminated by innumerable over-hanging crystal
chandeliers. The bell of the neighboring church struck twelve, the hall
doors slowly opened, and there entered a superb colossal female form,
reverentially accompanied by the members and hangers-on of the legal
faculty. The giantess, though advanced in years, retained in her
countenance traces of severe beauty, and her every glance indicated the
sublime Titaness, the mighty Themis. The sword and balance were
carelessly grasped in her right hand, while with the left she held a
roll of parchment. Two young _Doctores Juris_ bore the train of her
faded gray robe; by her right side the lean Court Councilor Rusticus,
the Lycurgus of Hanover, fluttered here and there like a zephyr,
declaiming extracts from his last hand-book of law, while on her left
her _cavalier servente_, the privy-councilor of Justice Cujacius,
hobbled gaily and gallantly along, constantly cracking legal jokes,
himself laughing so heartily at his own wit that even the serious
goddess often smiled and bent over him, exclaiming, as she tapped him on
the shoulder with the great parchment roll, "You little scamp, who begin
to trim the trees from the top!" All of the gentlemen who formed her
escort now drew nigh in turn, each having something to remark or jest
over, either a freshly worked-up miniature system, or a miserable little
hypothesis, or some similar abortion of their own insignificant brains.
Through the open door of the hall many strange gentlemen now entered,
who announced themselves as the remaining magnates of the illustrious
Order--mostly angular suspicious-looking fellows, who with extreme
complacency blazed away with their definitions and hair-splittings,
disputing over every scrap of a title to the title of a pandect. And
other forms continually flocked in, the forms of those who were learned
in law in the olden time--men in antiquated costume, with long
councilors' wigs and forgotten faces, who expressed themselves greatly
astonished that they, the widely famed of the previous century, should
not meet with special consideration; and these, after their manner,
joined in the general chattering and screaming, which, like ocean
breakers, became louder and madder around the mighty goddess, until she,
bursting with impatience, suddenly cried, in a tone of the most agonized
Titanic pain, "Silence! Silence! I hear the voice of the beloved
Prometheus. Mocking cunning and brute force are chaining the Innocent
One to the rock of martyrdom, and all your prattling and quarreling will
not allay his wounds or break his fetters!" So cried the goddess, and
rivulets of tears sprang from her eyes; the entire assembly howled as if
in the agonies of death, the ceiling of the hall burst asunder, the
books tumbled madly from their shelves. In vain did Muenchhausen step out
of his frame to call them to order; it only crashed and raged all the
more wildly. I sought refuge from this Bedlam broken loose in the Hall
of History, near that gracious spot where the holy images of the Apollo
Belvedere and the Venus de Medici stand near each other, and I knelt at
the feet of the Goddess of Beauty. In her glance I forgot all the wild
excitement from which I had escaped, my eyes drank in with intoxication
the symmetry and immortal loveliness of her infinitely blessed form;
Hellenic calm swept through my soul, while above my head Phoebus Apollo
poured forth, like heavenly blessings, the sweetest tones of his lyre.
Awaking, I continued to hear a pleasant, musical sound. The flocks were
on their way to pasture, and their bells were tinkling. The blessed
golden sunlight shone through the window, illuminating the pictures on
the walls of my room. They were sketches from the War of Independence,
which faithfully portrayed what heroes we all were; further, there were
scenes representing executions on the guillotine, from the time of the
revolution under Louis XIV., and other similar decapitations which no
one could behold without thanking God that he lay quietly in bed
drinking excellent coffee, and with his head comfortably adjusted upon
neck and shoulders.
After I had drunk my coffee, dressed myself, read the inscriptions upon
the window-panes, and settled my bill at the inn, I left Osterode.
This town contains a certain quantity of houses and a given number of
inhabitants, among whom are divers and sundry souls, as may be
ascertained in detail from Gottschalk's "Pocket Guide-Book for Harz
Travelers." Ere I struck into the highway, I ascended the ruins of the
very ancient Osteroder Burg. They consisted merely of the half of a
great, thick-walled tower, which appeared to be fairly honeycombed by
time. The road to Clausthal led me again uphill, and from one of the
first eminences I looked back once more into the dale where Osterode
with its red roofs peeps out from among the green fir-woods, like a
moss-rose from amid its leaves. The sun cast a pleasant, tender light
over the whole scene. From this spot the imposing rear of the remaining
portion of the tower may be seen to advantage.
There are many other ruined castles in this vicinity. That of
Hardenberg, near Noerten, is the most beautiful. Even when one has, as he
should, his heart on the left--that is, the liberal side--he cannot
banish all melancholy feeling on beholding the rocky nests of those
privileged birds of prey, who left to their effete descendants only
their fierce appetites. So it happened to me this morning. My heart
thawed gradually as I departed from Goettingen; I again became romantic,
and as I went on I made up this poem:
Rise again, ye dreams forgotten;
Heart-gate, open to the sun!
Joys of song and tears of sorrow
Sweetly strange from thee shall run.
I will rove the fir-tree forest,
Where the merry fountain springs,
Where the free, proud stags are wandering,
Where the thrush, my darling, sings.
I will climb upon the mountains,
On the steep and rocky height,
Where the gray old castle ruins
Stand in rosy morning light.
I will sit awhile reflecting
On the times long passed away,
Races which of old were famous,
Glories sunk in deep decay.
Grows the grass upon the tilt-yard,
Where the all-victorious knight
Overcame the strongest champions,
Won the guerdon of the fight.
O'er the balcony twines ivy,
Where the fairest gave the prize,
Him who all the rest had vanquished
Overcoming with her eyes.
Both the victors, knight and lady,
Fell long since by Death's cold hand;
So the gray and withered scytheman
Lays the mightiest in the sand.
After proceeding a little distance, I met with a traveling journeyman
who came from Brunswick, and who related to me that it was generally
believed in that city that their young Duke had been taken prisoner by
the Turks during his tour in the Holy Land, and could be ransomed only
by an enormous sum. The extensive travels of the Duke probably
originated this tale. The people at large still preserve that
traditional fable-loving train of ideas which is so pleasantly shown in
their "Duke Ernest." The narrator of this news was a tailor, a neat
little youth, but so thin that the stars might have shone through him as
through Ossian's misty ghosts. Altogether, he was made up of that
eccentric mixture of humor and melancholy peculiar to the German people.
This was especially expressed in the droll and affecting manner in which
he sang that extraordinary popular ballad, "A beetle sat upon the hedge,
_summ, summ!_" There is one fine thing about us Germans--no one is so
crazy but that he may find a crazier comrade who will understand him.
Only a German _can_ appreciate that song, and in the same breath laugh
and cry himself to death over it. On this occasion I also remarked the
depth to which the words of Goethe have penetrated the national life. My
lean comrade trilled occasionally as he went along--"Joyful and
sorrowful, thoughts are free!" Such a corruption of text is usual among
the multitude. He also sang a song in which "Lottie by the grave of
Werther" wept. The tailor ran over with sentimentalism in the words--
"Sadly by the rose-beds now I weep,
Where the late moon found us oft alone!
Moaning where the silver fountains sleep,
Once which whispered joy in every tone."
* * * * *
The hills here became steeper, the fir-woods below were like a green
sea, and white clouds above sailed along over the blue sky. The wildness
of the region was, as it were, tamed by its uniformity and the
simplicity of its elements. Nature, like a true poet, abhors abrupt
transitions. Clouds, however fantastically formed they may at times
appear, still have a white, or at least a subdued hue, harmoniously
corresponding with the blue heaven and the green earth; so that all the
colors of a landscape blend into one another like soft music, and every
glance at such a natural picture tranquilizes and reassures the soul.
The late Hofmann would have painted the clouds spotted and chequered.
And, like a great poet, Nature knows how to produce the greatest
effects with the most limited means. She has, after all, only a sun,
trees, flowers, water, and love to work with. Of course, if the latter
be lacking in the heart of the observer, the whole will, in all
probability, present but a poor appearance; the sun is then only so many
miles in diameter, the trees are good for firewood, the flowers are
classified according to their stamens, and the water is wet.
A little boy who was gathering brushwood in the forest for his sick
uncle pointed out to me the village of Lerrbach, whose little huts with
gray roofs lie scattered along for over a mile through the valley.
"There," said he, "live idiots with goitres, and white negroes." By
white negroes the people mean "albinos." The little fellow lived on
terms of peculiar understanding with the trees, addressing them like old
acquaintances, while they in turn seemed by their waving and rustling to
return his salutations. He chirped like a thistle-finch; many birds
around answered his call, and, ere I was aware, he had disappeared amid
the thickets with his little bare feet and his bundle of brush.
"Children," thought I, "are younger than we; they can remember when they
were once trees or birds, and are consequently still able to understand
them. We of larger growth are, alas, too old for that, and carry about
in our heads too many sorrows and bad verses and too much legal lore."
But the time when it was otherwise recurred vividly to me as I entered
Clausthal. In this pretty little mountain town, which the traveler does
not behold until he stands directly before it, I arrived just as the
clock was striking twelve and the children came tumbling merrily out of
school. The little rogues, nearly all red-cheeked, blue-eyed,
flaxen-haired, sprang and shouted and awoke in me melancholy and
cheerful memories--how I once myself, as a little boy, sat all the
forenoon long in a gloomy Catholic cloister school in Duesseldorf,
without so much as daring to stand up, enduring meanwhile a terrible
amount of Latin, whipping, and geography, and how I too hurrahed and
rejoiced, beyond all measure when the old Franciscan clock at last
struck twelve. The children saw by my knapsack that I was a stranger,
and greeted me in the most hospitable manner. One of the boys told me
that they had just had a lesson in religion, and showed me the Royal
Hanoverian Catechism, from which they were questioned on Christianity.
This little book was very badly printed, so that I greatly feared that
the doctrines of faith made thereby but an unpleasant blotting-paper
sort of impression upon the children's minds. I was also shocked at
observing that the multiplication table--which surely seriously
contradicts the Holy Trinity--was printed on the last page of the
catechism, as it at once occurred to me that by this means the minds of
the children might, even in their earliest years, be led to the most
sinful skepticism. We Prussians are more intelligent, and, in our zeal
for converting those heathen who are familiar with arithmetic, take good
care not to print the multiplication table in the back of the catechism.
I dined at The Crown, at Clausthal. My repast consisted of spring-green
parsley-soup, violet-blue cabbage, a pile of roast veal, which resembled
Chimborazo in miniature, and a sort of smoked herring, called
"Bueckings," from the inventor, William Buecking, who died in 1447, and
who, on account of the invention, was so greatly honored by Charles V.
that the great monarch in 1556 made a journey from Middleburg to
Bievlied in Zealand for the express purpose of visiting the grave of the
great man. How exquisitely such dishes taste when we are familiar with
their historical associations!
* * * * *
In the silver refinery, as has so frequently happened in life, I could
get no glimpse of the precious metal. In the mint I succeeded better,
and saw how money was made. Beyond this I have never been able to
advance. On such occasions mine has invariably been the spectator's
part, and I verily believe that, if it should rain dollars from heaven,
the coins would only knock holes in my head, while the children of
Israel would merrily gather up the silver manna. With feelings in which
comic reverence was blended with emotion, I beheld the new-born shining
dollars, took one in my hand as it came fresh from the stamp, and said
to it, "Young Dollar, what a destiny awaits thee! What a cause wilt thou
be of good and of evil! How thou wilt protect vice and patch up virtue!
How thou wilt be beloved and accursed! How thou wilt aid in debauchery,
pandering, lying, and murdering! How thou wilt restlessly roll along
through clean and dirty hands for centuries, until finally, laden with
tresspasses and weary with sin, thou wilt be gathered again unto thine
own, in the bosom of an Abraham, who will melt thee down, purify thee,
and form thee into a new and better being, perhaps an innocent little
tea-spoon, with which my own great-great-grandson will mash his
I will narrate in detail my visit to "Dorothea" and "Caroline," the two
principal Clausthaler mines, having found them very interesting.
Half an hour away from the town are situated two large dingy buildings.
Here the traveler is transferred to the care of the miners. These men
wear dark and generally steel-blue colored jackets, of ample girth,
descending to the hips, with pantaloons of a similar hue, a leather
apron tied on behind, and a rimless green felt hat which resembles a
decapitated nine-pin. In such a garb, with the exception of the
"back-leather," the visitor is also clad, and a miner, his "leader,"
after lighting his mine-lamp, conducts him to a gloomy entrance
resembling a chimney-hole, descends as far as the breast, gives him a
few directions relative to grasping the ladder, and requests him to
follow fearlessly. The affair is entirely devoid of danger, though it at
first appears quite otherwise to those unacquainted with the mysteries
of mining. Even the putting on of the dark convict-dress awakens very
peculiar sensations. Then one must clamber down on all fours, the dark
hole is so _very_ dark, and Lord only knows how long the ladder may be!
But we soon remark that this is not the only ladder descending into the
black eternity, for there are many, of from fifteen to twenty rounds
apiece, each standing upon a board capable of supporting a man, and from
which a new hole leads in turn to a new ladder. I first entered the
"Caroline," the dirtiest and most disagreeable Caroline with whom I ever
had the pleasure of becoming acquainted. The rounds of the ladders were
covered with wet mud. And from one ladder we descend to another with the
guide ever in advance, continually assuring us that there was no danger
so long as we held firmly to the rounds and did not look at our feet,
and that we must not for our lives tread on the side plank, where the
buzzing barrel-rope runs, and where two weeks ago a careless man was
knocked down, unfortunately breaking his neck by the fall. Far below is
a confused rustling and humming, and we continually bump against beams
and ropes which are in motion, winding up and raising barrels of broken
ore or of water. Occasionally we pass galleries hewn in the rock, called
"stulms," where the ore may be seen growing, and where some solitary
miner sits the livelong day, wearily hammering pieces from the walls. I
did not descend to those deepest depths where it is reported that the
people on the other side of the world, in America, may be heard crying,
"Hurrah for Lafayette!" Between ourselves, where I did go seemed to me
deep enough in all conscience; there was an endless roaring and
rattling, uncanny sounds of machinery, the rush of subterranean streams,
sickening clouds of ore-dust continually rising, water dripping on all
sides, and the miner's lamp gradually growing dimmer and dimmer. The
effect was really benumbing, I breathed with difficulty, and had trouble
in holding to the slippery rounds. It was not _fright_ which overpowered
me, but, oddly enough, down there in the depths, I remembered that a
year before, about the same time, I had been in a storm on the North
Sea, and I now felt that it would be an agreeable change could I feel
the rocking of the ship, hear the wind with its thunder-trumpet tones,
while amid its lulls sounded the hearty cry of the sailors, and all
above was freshly swept by God's own free air--yes, sir! Panting for
air, I rapidly climbed several dozens of ladders, and my guide led me
through a narrow and very long gallery toward the "Dorothea" mine. Here
it was airier and fresher, and the ladders were cleaner, though at the
same time longer and steeper, than in the "Caroline." I felt revived and
more cheerful, particularly as I again observed traces of human beings.
Far below I saw wandering, wavering lights; miners with their lamps came
upwards one by one with the greeting, "Good luck to you!" and, receiving
the same salutation from us, went onwards and upwards. Something like a
friendly and quiet, yet, at the same time, painful and enigmatical
recollection flitted across my mind as I met the deep glances and
earnest pale faces of these young and old men, mysteriously illuminated
by their lanterns, and thought how they had worked all day in lonely and
secret places in the mines, and how they now longed for the blessed
light of day and for the glances of wives and children.
My guide himself was an absolutely honest, thoroughly loyal German
specimen. With inward joy he pointed out to me the "place" where the
Duke of Cambridge, when he visited the mines, dined with all his train,
and where the long wooden table yet stands; with the accompanying great
chair, made of ore, in which the Duke sat. "This is to remain as an
eternal memorial," said the good miner, and he related with enthusiasm
how many festivities had then taken place, how the entire "stulm" had
been adorned with lamps, flowers, and decorations of leaves; how a miner
boy had played on the cithern and sung; how the dear, delighted, fat
Duke had drained many healths, and what a number of miners (himself
especially) would cheerfully die for the dear, fat Duke, and for the
whole house of Hanover. I am moved to my very heart when I see loyalty
thus manifested in all its natural simplicity. It is such a beautiful
sentiment, and such a purely _German_ sentiment! Other people may be
wittier, more intelligent, and more agreeable, but none is so faithful
as the real German race. Did I not know that fidelity is as old as the
world, I would believe that a German heart had invented it. German
fidelity is no modern "Yours very truly," or "I remain your humble
servant." In your courts, ye German princes, ye should cause to be sung,
and sung again, the old ballad of _The Trusty Eckhart and the Base
Burgund_ who slew Eckhart's seven children, and still found him
faithful. Ye have the truest people in the world, and ye err when ye
deem that the old, intelligent, trusty hound has suddenly gone mad, and
snaps at your sacred calves!
And, like German fidelity, the little mine-lamp has guided us
quietly and securely, without much flickering or flaring, through
the labyrinth of shafts and stulms. We ascend out of the gloomy
mountain-night--sunlight flashes around--"Good luck to you!"
Most of the miners dwell in Clausthal, and in the adjoining small town
of Zellerfeld. I visited several of these brave fellows, observed their
little households, heard many of their songs, which they skilfully
accompany with their favorite instrument, the cithern, and listened to
old mining legends, and to their prayers which they are accustomed to
offer daily in company ere they descend the gloomy shaft; and many a
good prayer did I offer up with them! One old climber even thought that
I ought to remain among them, and become a man of the mines; but as I
took my leave notwithstanding, he gave me a message to his brother, who
dwelt near Goslar, and many kisses for his darling niece.
Tranquil even to stagnation as the life of these people may appear, it
is, nevertheless, a real and vivid life. That ancient trembling crone
who sits behind the stove opposite the great clothes-press may have been
there for a quarter of a century, and all her thinking and feeling is,
beyond a doubt, intimately blended with every corner of the stove and
the carvings of the press. And clothes-press and stove _live_--for a
human being hath breathed into them a portion of her soul.
It was only in such deeply contemplative life as this, in such "direct
relationship" between man and the things of the outer world, that the
German fairy tale could originate, the peculiarity of which consists in
the fact that in it not only animals and plants, but also objects
apparently inanimate, speak and act. To thoughtful harmless people in
the quiet homeliness of their lowly mountain cabins or forest huts, the
inner life of these objects was gradually revealed; they acquired a
necessary and consistent character, a sweet blending of fantastic humor
and purely human sentiment, and thus we find in the fairy tale--as
something marvelous and yet at the same time quite natural--the pin and
the needle wandering forth from the tailor's home and losing their way
in the dark; the straw and the coal seeking to cross the brook and
coming to grief; the dust-pan and broom quarreling and fighting on the
stairs. Thus the mirror, when interrogated, shows the image of the
fairest lady, and even drops of blood begin to utter obscure and fearful
words of the deepest compassion. And this is the reason why our life in
childhood is so infinitely significant, for then all things are of the
same importance, nothing escapes our attention, there is equality in
every impression; while, when more advanced in years, we must act with
design, busy ourselves more exclusively with particulars, carefully
exchange the pure gold of observation for the paper currency of book
definitions, and win in _breadth_ of life what we lost in depth.
_Now,_ we are grown-up, respectable people, we often inhabit new
dwellings; the housemaid daily cleans them and changes at her will the
position of the furniture, which interests us but little, as it is
either new or may belong today to Jack, tomorrow to Isaac. Even our very
clothes are strange to us; we hardly know how many buttons there are on
the coat we wear--for we change our garments as often as possible, and
none of them remains deeply identified with our external or inner
history. We can hardly remember how that brown vest once looked, which
attracted so much laughter, and yet on the broad stripes of which the
dear hand of the loved one so gently rested!
The old dame who sat behind the stove opposite the clothes-press wore a
flowered dress of some old-fashioned material, which had been the bridal
robe of her departed mother. Her great-grandson, a fair-haired boy, with
flashing eyes, clad in a miner's dress, sat at her feet and counted the
flowers on her dress. It may be that she has narrated to him many a
story connected with that dress--many serious and pretty stories, which
the boy will not readily forget, which will often recur to him when he,
a grown-up man, works alone in the midnight galleries of the "Caroline,"
and which he in turn will narrate when the dear grandmother has long
been dead, and he himself, a silver-haired, tranquil old man, sits amid
the circle of _his_ grand-children behind the stove, opposite the great
I lodged that night too in The Crown, where the Court Councilor B----,
of Goettingen, had arrived meanwhile, and I had the pleasure of paying my
respects to the old gentleman. After writing my name in the book of
arrivals, I turned over the leaves of the month of July and found
therein, among others, the much loved name of Adalbert von Chamisso, the
biographer of the immortal _Schlemihl_. The landlord remarked of
Chamisso that the gentleman had arrived during one terrible storm and
departed in another.
The next morning I had again to lighten my knapsack, and threw overboard
an extra pair of boots; then I arose and went on to Goslar, where I
arrived without knowing how. This much alone do I remember, that I
sauntered up hill and down dale, gazing upon many a lovely meadow vale;
silver waters rippled and murmured, sweet woodbirds sang, the bells of
the flocks tinkled, the many shaded green trees were gilded by the sun,
and, over all, the blue silk canopy of heaven was so transparent that
one could look through the depths even to the Holy of Holies, where
angels sit at the feet of God, studying thorough-bass in the features of
the eternal countenance. But I was all the time lost in a dream of the
previous night, which I could not banish from my thoughts. It was an
echo of the old legend--how a knight descended into a deep fountain
beneath which the fairest princess of the world lay buried in a
deathlike magic slumber. I myself was the knight, and the dark mine of
Clausthal was the fountain. Suddenly innumerable lights gleamed around
me, watchful dwarfs leapt from every cranny in the rocks, grimacing
angrily, cutting at me with their short swords, blowing shrilly on
horns, which summoned more and ever more of their comrades, and
frantically nodding their great heads. But as I hewed them down with my
sword the blood flowed, and I for the first time remarked that they were
not really dwarfs, but the red-blooming, long-bearded thistle-tops,
which I had the day before hewed down on the highway with my stick. At
last they all vanished, and I came to a splendid lighted hall, in the
midst of which stood my heart's loved one, veiled in white, and
immovable as a statue. I kissed her mouth, and then--O Heavens!--I felt
the blessed breath of her soul and the sweet tremor of her lovely lips.
It seemed that I heard the divine command, "Let there be light!" and a
dazzling flash of eternal light shot down, but at the same instant it
was again night, and all ran chaotically together into a wild turbulent
sea! A wild turbulent sea, indeed, over whose foaming waves the ghosts
of the departed madly chased one another, their white shrouds floating
in the wind, while behind all, goading them on with cracking whip, ran a
many-colored harlequin--and I was the harlequin! Suddenly from the black
waves the sea monsters raised their misshapen heads, snatched at me with
extended claws, and I awoke in terror.
Alas, how the finest fairy tales may be spoiled! The knight, in fact,
when he has found the sleeping princess, ought to cut a piece from her
priceless veil, and when, by his bravery, she has been awakened from her
magic sleep and is again seated on her golden throne in her palace, the
knight should approach her and say, "My fairest princess, dost thou not
know me?" Then she will answer, "My bravest knight, I know thee not!"
And then he shows her the piece cut from her veil, exactly fitting the
deficiency, and she knows that he is her deliverer, and both tenderly
embrace, and the trumpets sound, and the marriage is celebrated. It is
really a very peculiar misfortune that _my_ love-dreams so seldom have
so fine a conclusion.
[Illustration: OLD IMPERIAL PALACE, GOSLAR]
The name of Goslar rings so pleasantly, and there are so many very
ancient and imperial associations connected therewith, that I had hoped
to find an imposing and stately town. But it is always the same old
story when we examine celebrities too closely. I found a nest of houses,
drilled in every direction with narrow streets of labyrinthine
crookedness, and amid which a miserable stream, probably the Gose, winds
its sad and muddy way. The pavement of the town is as ragged as Berlin
hexameters. Only the antiquities which are imbedded in the frame or
mounting of the city--that is to say, its remnants of walls, towers, and
battlements--give the place a piquant look. One of these towers, known as
the "Zwinger," or donjonkeep, has walls of such extraordinary thickness
that entire rooms are excavated therein. The open place before the town,
where the world-renowned shooting matches are held, is a beautiful large
plain surrounded by high mountains. The market is small, and in its
midst is a spring fountain, the waters from which pours into a great
metallic basin. When an alarm of fire is raised, they strike several
times on this cup-formed basin, which gives out a very loud vibration.
Nothing is known of the origin of this work. Some say that the devil
placed it once during the night on the spot where it stands. In those
days people were as yet fools, nor was the devil any wiser, and they
mutually exchanged gifts.
The town hall of Goslar is a whitewashed guard-room. The Guildhall, hard
by, has a somewhat better appearance. In this building, equidistant from
roof and ceiling, stands the statues of German emperors. Blackened with
smoke and partly gilded, in one hand the sceptre, and in the other the
globe, they look like roasted college beadles. One of the emperors holds
a sword instead of a sceptre. I cannot imagine the reason of this
variation from the established order, though it has doubtless some
occult signification, as Germans have the remarkable peculiarity of
meaning something in whatever they do.
In Gottschalk's _Handbook_ I had read much of the very ancient
cathedral, and of the far-famed imperial throne at Goslar. But when I
wished to see these curiosities, I was informed that the church had been
torn down, and that the throne had been carried to Berlin. We live in
deeply significant times, when millennial churches are destroyed and
imperial thrones are tumbled into the lumber-room.
A few memorials of the late cathedral of happy memory are still
preserved in the church of St. Stephen. These consist of stained glass
pictures of great beauty, a few indifferent paintings, including a Lucas
Cranach, a wooden Christ crucified, and a heathen altar of some unknown
metal. The latter resembles a long square coffer, and is upheld by
caryatides, which in a bowed position hold their hands above their heads
in support, and are making the most hideous grimaces. But far more
hideous is the adjacent large wooden crucifix of which I have just
spoken. This head of Christ, with its real hair and thorns and
blood-stained countenance, represents, in the most masterly manner, the
death of a _man_--but not of a divinely-born Savior. Nothing but physical
suffering is portrayed in this image--not the sublime poetry of pain.
Such a work would be more appropriately placed in a hall of anatomy than
in a house of the Lord.
The sacristan's wife--an artistic expert--who led me about, showed me a
special rarity. This was a many-cornered, well-planed blackboard covered
with white numerals, which hung like a lamp in the middle of the
building. Oh, how brilliantly does the spirit of invention manifest
itself in the Protestant Church! For who would think it! The numbers on
this board are those of the Psalms for the day, which are generally
chalked on a common black tablet, and have a very sobering effect on an
esthetic mind, but which, in the form above described, even ornament the
church and fully make up for the want of pictures by Raphael. Such
progress delights me infinitely, since I, as a Protestant and a
Lutheran, am ever deeply chagrined when Catholic opponents ridicule the
empty, God-forsaken appearance of Protestant churches.
* * * * *
The churchyard at Goslar did not appeal to me very strongly, but a
certain very pretty blonde-ringleted head which peeped smilingly from a
parterre window _did_. After dinner I again sought out this fascinating
window, but, instead of a maiden, I beheld a glass containing white
bellflowers. I clambered up, stole the flowers, put them quietly in my
cap, and descended, unheeding the gaping mouths, petrified noses, and
goggle eyes, with which the people in the street, and especially the old
women, regarded this qualified theft. As I, an hour later, passed by the
same house, the beauty stood by the window, and, as she saw the flowers
in my cap, she blushed like a ruby and started back. This time I had
seen the beautiful face to better advantage; it was a sweet, transparent
incarnation of summer-evening breeze, moonshine, nightingale notes, and
rose perfume. Later, in the twilight hour, she was standing at the door.
I came--I drew near--she slowly retreated into the dark entry. I
followed, and, seizing her hand, said, "I am a lover of beautiful
flowers and of kisses, and when they are not given to me I steal them."
Here I quickly snatched a kiss, and, as she was about to flee, whispered
soothingly, "Tomorrow I leave this town, probably never to return." Then
I perceived a faint pressure of the lovely lips and of the little hand
and I--hurried smilingly away. Yes, I must smile when I reflect that
unconsciously I uttered the magic formula by which our red-and
blue-coated cavaliers more frequently win female hearts than by their
mustachioed attractiveness--"Tomorrow I leave, probably never to
* * * * *
During the night which I passed at Goslar, a remarkably curious
occurrence befell me. Even now I cannot think of it without terror. I am
not cowardly by nature and Heaven knows that I have never experienced
any special anguish when, for example, a naked blade has sought to make
acquaintance with my nose or when I have lost my way at night in a wood
of ill repute, or when, at a concert, a yawning lieutenant has
threatened to swallow me--but _ghosts_ I fear almost as much as the
_Austrian Observer_. What is fear? Does it originate in the brain or
in the emotions? This was a point which I frequently disputed with Dr.
Saul Ascher, when we accidentally met in the Cafe Royal in Berlin, where
for a long time I used to take dinner. The Doctor invariably maintained
that we feared anything, because we recognized it as fearful, by a
certain process of reasoning, for reason alone is an active power--the
emotions are not. While I ate and drank my fill, the Doctor continued to
demonstrate to me the advantages of reason. Toward the end of his
demonstration, he was accustomed to look at his watch and remark
conclusively, "Reason is the highest principle!" Reason! Never do I hear
this word without recalling Dr. Saul Ascher, with his abstract legs, his
tight-fitting transcendental-grey long coat, his forbidding icy face,
which could have served as frontispiece for a textbook of geometry. This
man, deep in the fifties, was a personified straight line. In his
striving for the positive, the poor man had, by dint of philosophizing,
eliminated all the splendid things from life, such as sunshine,
religion, and flowers, so that there remained nothing for him but the
cold positive grave. The Apollo Belvedere and Christianity were the two
special objects of his malice, and he had even published a pamphlet
against the latter, in which he had demonstrated its unreasonableness
and untenableness. In addition to this, he has written a great number of
books, in all of which _Reason_ shines forth in all its peculiar
excellence, and as the poor Doctor meant what he said in all
seriousness, he was, so far, deserving of respect. But the great joke
consisted precisely in this, that the Doctor invariably cut such a
seriously absurd figure when he could not comprehend what every child
comprehends, simply because it is a child. I visited the Doctor of
Reason several times in his own house, where I found him in company with
very pretty girls; for Reason, it seems, does not prohibit the enjoyment
of the things of this world. Once, however, when I called, his servant
told me the "Herr Doctor" had just died. I experienced as much emotion
on this occasion as if I had been told that the "Herr Doctor" had just
To return to Goslar. "The highest principle is Reason," said I
soothingly to myself, as I slid into bed. But it availed me nothing. I
had just been reading in Varnhagen von Ense's _German Tales,_ which I
had brought with me from Clausthal, that terrible story of the son who
went about to murder his father and was warned in the night by the ghost
of his mother. The wonderful truthfulness with which this story is
depicted, caused, while reading it, a shudder of horror in all my veins.
Ghost-stories invariably thrill us with additional horror when read
during a journey, and by night in a town, in a house, and in a room
where we have never been before. We involuntarily reflect, "How many
horrors may have been perpetrated on this very spot where I now lie!"
Meanwhile, the moon shone into my room in a doubtful, suspicious manner;
all kinds of uncalled-for shapes quivered on the walls, and as I raised
myself in bed and glanced fearfully toward them, I beheld--
There is nothing so uncanny as when a man accidentally sees his own face
by moonlight in a mirror. At the same instant there struck a
deep-booming, yawning bell, and that so slowly and wearily that after
the twelfth stroke I firmly believed that twelve full hours must have
passed and that it would begin to strike twelve all over again. Between
the last and next to the last tones, there struck in very abruptly, as
if irritated and scolding, another bell, which was apparently out of
patience with the slowness of its colleague. As the two iron tongues
were silenced, and the stillness of death sank over the whole house, I
suddenly seemed to hear, in the corridor before my chamber, something
halting and shuffling along, like the unsteady steps of an old man. At
last my door opened, and there entered slowly the late departed Dr. Saul
Ascher. A cold fever ran through me. I trembled like an ivy leaf and
scarcely dared to gaze upon the ghost. He appeared as usual, with the
same transcendental-grey long coat, the same abstract legs, and the same
mathematical face; only this latter was a little yellower than usual,
the mouth, which formerly described two angles of 22-1/2 degrees, was
pinched together, and the circles around the eyes had a somewhat greater
radius. Tottering, and supporting himself as usual upon his Malacca
cane, he approached me, and said in his usual drawling accent but in a
friendly manner, "Do not be afraid, nor believe that I am a ghost. It is
a deception of your imagination, if you believe that you see me as a
ghost. What is a ghost? Define one. Deduce for me the conditions of the
possibility of a ghost. What reasonable connection is there between such
an apparition and reason? Reason, I say, _Reason!"_ Here the ghost
proceeded to analyze reason, cited from Kant's _Critique of Pure
Reason_, part II, section I, book 2, chap. 3, the distinction between
phenomena and noumena, then went on to construct a hypothetical system
of ghosts, piled one syllogism on another, and concluded with the
logical proof that there are absolutely no ghosts. Meanwhile the cold
sweat ran down my back, my teeth clattered like castanets, and from very
agony of soul I nodded an unconditional assent to every assertion which
the phantom doctor alleged against the absurdity of being afraid of
ghosts, and which he demonstrated with such zeal that once, in a moment
of distraction, instead of his gold watch he drew a handful of
grave-worms from his vest-pocket, and remarking his error, replaced them
with a ridiculous but terrified haste. "Reason is the highest--!" Here
the clock struck _one_, but the ghost vanished.
The next morning I left Goslar and wandered along, partly at random, and
partly with the intention of visiting the brother of the Clausthal
miner. Again we had beautiful Sunday weather. I climbed hill and
mountain, saw how the sun strove to drive away the mists, and wandered
merrily through the quivering woods, while around my dreaming head rang
the bell-flowers of Goslar. The mountains stood in their white
night-robes, the fir-trees were shaking sleep out of their branching
limbs, the fresh morning wind curled their drooping green locks, the
birds were at morning prayers, the meadow-vale flashed like a golden
surface sprinkled with diamonds, and the shepherd passed over it with
his bleating flock.
* * * * *
After much circuitous wandering I came to the dwelling of the brother of
my Clausthal friend. Here I stayed all night and experienced the
following beautiful poem--
Stands the but upon the mountain
Where the ancient woodman dwells
There the dark-green fir-trees rustle,
Casts the moon its golden spells.
In the but there stands an arm-chair,
Richly carved and cleverly;
He who sits therein is happy,
And that happy man am I.
On the footstool sits a maiden,
On my lap her arms repose,
With her eyes like blue stars beaming,
And her mouth a new-born rose.
And the dear blue stars shine on me,
Wide like heaven's great arch their gaze;
And her little lily finger
Archly on the rose she lays.
Nay, the mother cannot see us,
For she spins the whole day long;
And the father plays the cithern
As he sings a good old song.
And the maiden softly whispers,
Softly, that none may hear;
Many a solemn little secret
Hath she murmured in my ear.
"Since I lost my aunt who loved me,
Now we never more repair
To the shooting-lodge at Goslar,
And it is so pleasant there!
"Here above it is so lonely,
On the rocks where cold winds blow;
And in winter we are always
Deeply buried in the snow.
"And I'm such a timid creature,
And I'm frightened like a child
At the evil mountain spirits,
Who by night are raging wild"
Silent falls the winsome maiden,
Frightened by her own surmise,
Little hands, so white and dimpled,
Pressing on her sweet blue eyes.
Louder now the fir-trees rustle,
Spinning-wheel more harshly drones;
In their pauses sounds the cithern,
And the old song's simple tones:
"Do not fear, my tender nursling,
Aught of evil spirits' might;
For good angels still are watching
Round thy pathway day and night."
Now the fir-tree's dark-green fingers
Tap upon the window low,
And the moon, a yellow listener,
Casts within her sweetest glow.
Father, mother, both are sleeping,
Near at hand their rest they take;
But we two, in pleasant gossip,
Keep each other long awake.
"That thou prayest much too often,
Seems unlikely, I declare;
On thy lips there is a quiver
Which was never born of prayer.
"Ah! that heartless, cold expression
All my being terrifies--
Though my darkling fear is lessened
By thy frank and honest eyes.
"Yet I doubt if thou believest
What is held for truth by most;
Hast thou faith in God the Father,
In the Son and Holy Ghost?"
"Ah, my darling! when an infant
By my mother's knee I stood,
I believed in God the Father,
In the Ruler great and good.
"He who made the world so lovely,
Gave man beauty, gave him force,
And to sun and moon and planets
Pre-appointed each its course.
"As I older grew, my darling,
And my way in wisdom won,
I in reason comprehended,
And believe now in the Son--
"In the well-loved Son, who, loving,
Oped the gates of Love so wide;
And for thanks--as is the custom--
By the world was crucified.
"Now, that I in full-grown manhood
Reading, travel, wisdom boast;
Still my heart expands, and, truly
I believe the Holy Ghost,
"Who bath worked the greatest wonders--
Greater still he'll work again;
He bath broken tyrants' strongholds,
Broken every vassal's chain.
"Ancient deadly wounds he healeth,
He renews man's ancient right;
All to him, born free and equal,
Are as nobles in his sight.
"Clouds of evil flee before him,
And those cobwebs of the brain
Which forbade us love and pleasure,
Scowling grimly on our pain.
"And a thousand knights in armor
Hath he chosen and required
To fulfil his holy bidding--
All with noblest zeal inspired.
"Lo! I their precious swords are gleaming,
And their banners wave in fight!
What! Thou fain would'st see, my darling,
Such a proud and noble knight?
"Well, then, gaze on me, my dearest;
I am of that lordly host,
Kiss me! and you kiss a chosen
Champion of the Holy Ghost!"
Silently the moon conceals her
Down behind the sombre trees,
And the lamp which lights our chamber
Flickers in the evening breeze.
But the starry eyes are beaming
Softly o'er the dimpled cheeks,
And the purple rose is glowing,
While the gentle maiden speaks.
"Little people--fairy goblins--
Steal away our meat and bread;
In the chest it lies at evening,
In the morning it has fled.
"From our milk the little people
Steal the cream and all the best;
Then they leave the dish uncovered,
And our cat drinks up the rest.
"And the cat's a witch, I'm certain,
For by night, when storms arise,
Oft she seeks the haunted hill-top
Where the fallen tower lies.
"There was once a splendid castle.
Home of joy and weapons bright,
Where there swept in stately pageant
Lady, page, and armed knight.
"But a sorceress charmed the castle,
With its lords and ladies fair;
Now it is a lonely ruin,
And the owls are nesting there.
"But my aunt hath often told me,
Could I speak the proper word,
In the proper place up yonder,
When the proper hour occurred,
"I should see the ruins changing
Swiftly to a castle bright,
And again in stately dances
Dame and page and gallant knight.
"He who speaks the word of power
Wins the castle for his own,
And the knight with drum and trumpet
Loud will hail him lord alone."
So the simple fairy pictures
From the little rose-mouth bloom,
And the gentle eyes are shedding
Star-blue lustre through the gloom.
Round my hand the little maiden
Winds her gold locks as she will,
Gives a name to every finger,
Kisses, smiles, and then is still.
All things in the silent chamber,
Seem at once familiar grown,
As if e'en the chairs and clothes-press,
Well of old to me were known.
Now the clock talks kindly, gravely,
And the cithern, as 'twould seem,
Of itself is faintly chiming,
And I sit as in a dream.
Now the proper hour is striking,
Here the charm should now be heard;
Child, how would'st thou be astonished,
Should I speak the magic word!
If I spoke that word, then fading
Night would thrill in fearful strife;
Trees and streams would roar together
As the mountains woke to life.
Ringing lutes and goblin ditties
From the clefted rock would sound,
Like a mad and merry spring-tide
Flowers grow forest-high around.
Thousand startling, wondrous flowers,
Leaves of vast and fabled form,
Strangely perfumed, wildly quivering,
As if thrilled with passion's storm.
In a crimson conflagration
Roses o'er the tumult rise;
Giant lilies, white as crystal,
Shoot like columns to the skies.
Great as suns, the stars above us
Gaze adown with burning glow;
Fill the lilies' cups gigantic
With their lights' abundant flow.
We ourselves, my little maiden,
Would be changed more than all;
Torchlight gleams o'er gold and satin
Round us merrily would fall.
Thou thyself would'st be the princess,
And this hut thy castle high;
Ladies, lords, and graceful pages
Would be dancing, singing by.
I, however, I have conquered
Thee, and all things, with the word!
Serfs and castle--lo! with trumpet
Loud they hail me as their Lord!
The sun rose. The mists flitted away like phantoms at the third crow of
the cock. Again I wandered up hill and down dale, while above me soared
the fair sun, ever lighting up new scenes of beauty. The Spirit of the
Mountain evidently favored me, well knowing that a "poetical character"
has it in his power to say many a fine thing of him, and on this morning
he let me see his Harz as it is not, most assuredly, seen by every one.
But the Harz also saw me as I am seen by few, and there were as costly
pearls on my eyelashes as on the grass of the valley. The morning dew of
love wet my cheeks; the rustling pines understood me; their twigs parted
and waved up and down, as if, like mute mortals, they would express
their joy with gestures of their hands, and from afar I heard beautiful
and mysterious chimes, like the sound of bells belonging to some hidden
forest church. People say that these sounds are caused by the
cattle-bells, which, in the Harz ring with remarkable clearness and
It was noon, according to the position of the sun, as I chanced upon
such a flock, and its shepherd, a friendly, light-haired young fellow,
told me that the great hill at whose base I stood was the old,
world-renowned Brocken. For many leagues around there is no house, and I
was glad enough when the young man invited me to share his meal. We sat
down to a _dejeuner dinatoire_, consisting of bread and cheese. The
sheep snatched up our crumbs, while pretty glossy heifers jumped around,
ringing their bells roguishly, and laughing at us with great merry eyes.
We made a royal meal, my host appearing to me every inch a king; and as
he is the only monarch who has ever given me bread, I will sing his
praises right royally:
Kingly is the herd-boy's calling,
On the knoll his throne is set,
O'er his hair the sunlight falling
Gilds a living coronet.
Red-marked sheep that bleat so loudly
Are his courtiers cross-bedight,
Calves that strut before him proudly
Seem each one a stalwart knight.
Goats are actors nimbly springing,
And the cows and warblers gay
With their bell and flute-notes ringing
Form the royal orchestra.
And whene'er the music hushes,
Soft the pine-tree murmurs creep;
Far away a cataract rushes--
Look, our noble king's asleep!
Meanwhile through the kingdom bounding
Rules the dog as minister,
Till his bark from cliffs rebounding
Echoes to the sleeper's ear.
Yawning syllables he utters--
"Ruling is too hard a task.
Were I but at home," he mutters,
"With my queen 'tis all I'd ask.
"On her arm my head reposes
Free from care, how happily!
And her loving glance discloses
Kingdom wide enough for me."
We took leave of each other in a friendly manner, and with a light heart
I began to ascend the mountain. I was soon welcomed by a grove of
stately firs, for which I entertain great respect in every regard, for
these trees have not found growing to be such an easy business, and
during the days of their youth it fared hard with them. The mountain is
here sprinkled with a great number of blocks of granite, and most of the
trees were obliged either to twine their roots over the stones, or to
split them in two, and thus laboriously to search for the soil from
which to draw their nourishment. Here and there stones lie on top of one
another, forming, as it were, a gate, and over all rise the trees,
twining their naked roots down over the stone portals, and only laying
hold of the soil when they reach its base, so that they appear to be
growing in the air; and yet, as they have forced their way up to that
startling height and grown into one with the rocks, they stand more
securely than their comfortable comrades, who are rooted in the tame
forest soil of the level country. So it is in life with those great men
who have strengthened and established themselves by resolutely
overcoming the obstacles and hindrances of their early years. Squirrels
climbed amid the fir-twigs, while, beneath, yellow deer were quietly
grazing. I cannot comprehend, when I see such a noble, lovable animal,
how educated and refined people can take pleasure in hunting and killing
it. Such a creature was once more merciful than man, and suckled the
pining Schmerzenreich of the holy Genofeva. Most beautiful were the
golden sun-rays shooting through the dark-green of the firs. The roots
of the trees formed a natural stairway, and everywhere my feet
encountered swelling beds of moss, for the stones are here covered
foot-deep, as if with light-green velvet cushions. Everywhere a pleasant
freshness and the dreamy murmur of streams. Here and there we see water
rippling silver-clear amid the rocks, washing the bare roots and fibres
of trees. Bend down toward all this ceaseless activity and listen, and
you will hear, as it were, the mysterious history of the growth of the
plants, and the quiet pulsations of the heart of the mountain. In many
places the water jets strongly up amid rocks and roots, forming little
cascades. It is pleasant to sit in such places. There is such a
wonderful murmuring and rustling, the birds pour forth broken lovesick
strains, the trees whisper as if with a thousand maidens' tongues, the
odd mountain flowers peep up at us as if with a thousand maidens' eyes,
stretching out to us their curious, broad, drolly-scalloped leaves; the
sun-rays flash here and there in sport; the herbs, as though endowed
with reason, are telling one another their green legends; all seems
enchanted and it becomes more and more mysterious; an old, old dream is
realized--the loved one appears! Alas, that she so quickly vanishes!
The higher we ascend, so much the shorter and more dwarflike do the
fir-trees become, shrinking up, as it were, within themselves, until
finally only whortleberries, bilberries, and mountain herbs remain. It
is also sensibly colder. Here, for the first time, the granite boulders,
which are frequently of enormous size, become fully visible. These may
well have been the balls which evil spirits cast at one another on the
Walpurgis night, when the witches come riding hither on brooms and
pitchforks, when the mad, unhallowed revelry begins, as our credulous
nurses have told us, and as we may see it represented in the beautiful
Faust pictures of Master Retsch. Yes, a young poet, who, while
journeying from Berlin to Gottingen passed the Brocken on the first
evening in May, even noticed how certain ladies who cultivated
_belles-lettres_, were holding their esthetic tea-circle in a rocky
corner, how they comfortably read aloud the _Evening Journal_, how they
praised as universal geniuses their poetic billy-goats which hopped
bleating around their table, and how they passed a final judgment on all
the productions of German literature. But when they at last fell upon
_Ratcliff_ and _Almansor_, utterly denying to the author aught like
piety or Christianity, the hair of the youth rose on end, terror seized
him--I spurred my steed and rode onwards!
In fact, when we ascend the upper half of the Brocken, no one can well
help thinking of the amusing legends of the Blocksberg, and especially
of the great mystical German national tragedy of Doctor Faust. It ever
seemed to me that I could hear the cloven foot scrambling along behind,
and some one breathing humorously. And I verily believe that "Mephisto"
himself must breathe with difficulty when he climbs his favorite
mountain, for it is a road which is to the last degree exhausting, and I
was glad enough when I at last beheld the long-desired Brocken house.
[Illustration: "THE WITCHES DANCING GROUND"]
This house, as every one knows from numerous pictures, is situated on
the summit of the mountain, consists of a single story, and was erected
in the year 1800 by Count Stolberg-Wernigerode, in behalf of whom it is
managed as a tavern. On account of the wind and cold in winter its walls
are incredibly thick. The roof is low. From its midst rises a towerlike
observatory, and near the house lie two little out-buildings, one of
which in earlier times served as shelter to the Brocken visitors.
On entering the Brocken house, I experienced a somewhat unusual and
unreal sensation. After a long solitary journey amid rocks and pines,
the traveler suddenly finds himself in a house amid the clouds. Far
below lie cities, hills, and forests, while above he encounters a
curiously blended circle of strangers, by whom he is received, as is
usual in such assemblies, almost like an expected companion--half
inquisitively and half indifferently. I found the house full of guests,
and, as becomes a wise man, I first thought of the night, and of the
discomfort of sleeping on straw. With the voice of one dying I called
for tea, and the Brocken landlord was reasonable enough to perceive that
the sick gentleman must be provided with a decent bed. This he gave me
in a narrow room, where a young merchant--a long emetic in a brown
overcoat--had already established himself.
In the public room I found a full tide of bustle and animation. There
were students from different universities. Some of the newly arrived
were taking refreshments. Others, preparing for departure, buckled on
their knapsacks, wrote their names in the album, and received Brocken
bouquets from the housemaids. There was pinching of cheeks, singing,
springing, trilling; questions asked, answers given, fragments of
conversation such as--fine weather--footpath--_prosit_--luck be with
you!--Adieu! Some of those leaving were also partly drunk, and these
derived a twofold pleasure from the beautiful scenery, for a tipsy man
After recruiting my strength I ascended the observatory, and there found
a little gentleman with two ladies, one of whom was young and the other
elderly. The young lady was very beautiful--a superb figure, flowing
locks, surmounted by a helm-like black satin _chapeau_, amid whose white
plumes the wind played; fine limbs, so closely enwrapped by a black silk
mantle that their exquisite form was made manifest, and great free eyes,
calmly looking down into the great free world.
When a boy I thought of naught save tales of magic and wonder, and every
fair lady who had ostrich feathers on her head I regarded as an elfin
queen. If I observed that the train of her dress was wet I believed at
once that she must be a water-fairy. Now I know better, having learned
from natural history that those symbolical feathers are found on the
most stupid of birds, and that the train of a lady's dress may become
wet in a very natural way. But if I had, with those boyish eyes, seen
the aforesaid young lady in the aforesaid position on the Brocken, I
would most assuredly have thought--"that is the fairy of the mountain,
and she has just uttered the charm which has caused every thing down
there to appear so wonderful." Yes, at the first glance from the Brocken
everything appears in a high degree marvelous. New impressions throng in
on every side, and these, varied and often contradictory, unite in our
soul in an as yet undefined uncomprehended sensation. If we succeed in
grasping the sensation in its conception we shall comprehend the
character of the mountain. This character is entirely German as regards
not only its advantages but also its defects. The Brocken is a German.
With German thoroughness he points out to us--sharply and accurately
defined as in a panorama--the hundreds of cities, towns, and villages
which are principally situated to the north, and all the mountains,
forests, rivers, and plains which extend endlessly in all directions.
But for this very reason everything appears like a sharply designed and
perfectly colored map, and nowhere is the eye gratified by really
beautiful landscapes--just as we German compilers, owing to the
honorable exactness with which we attempt to give all and everything,
never appear to think of giving the details in a beautiful manner.
[Illustration: THE BROCKEN INN ABOUT 1830]
The mountain, in consequence, has a certain calm, German, intelligent,
tolerant character, simply because he can see things so distant yet so
distinctly. And when such a mountain opens his giant eyes, it may be
that he sees somewhat more than we dwarfs, who with our weak eyes climb
over him. Many indeed assert that the Blocksberg is very Philistian, and
Claudius once sang "The Blocksberg is the lengthy Sir Philistine;" but
that was an error. On account of his bald head, which he occasionally
covers with a cloud-cap, the Blocksberg has indeed a somewhat Philistian
aspect, but this with him, as with many other great Germans, is the
result of pure irony; for it is notorious that he has his wild student
and fantastic periods, as, for instance, on the first night of May. Then
he casts his cloud-cap uproariously and merrily into the air, and
becomes, like the rest of us, romantic mad, in real German fashion.
I soon sought to entrap the beauty into a conversation, for we begin to
fully enjoy the beauties of nature only when we talk about them on the
* * * * *
While we conversed twilight stole, the air grew colder, the sun sank
lower and lower, and the tower platform was filled with students,
traveling mechanics, and a few honest citizens with their spouses and
daughters, all of whom were desirous of witnessing the sunset. It is
truly a sublime spectacle, which tunes the soul to prayer. For a full
quarter of an hour all stood in solemn silence, gazing on the beautiful
fire-ball as it gradually sank in the west; our faces were bathed in the
rosy light; our hands were involuntarily folded; it seemed as if we, a
silent congregation, stood in the nave of a giant cathedral, that the
priest raised the body of the Lord, and the Palestrina's immortal hymns
poured forth from the organ.
As I stood thus, lost in devotion, I heard some one near me exclaim,
"Ah, how beautiful Nature is, as a general thing!" These words came from
the sentimental heart of my room-mate, the young merchant. They brought
me back to my week-day frame of mind, and I was now able to say a few
neat things to the ladies about the sunset and to accompany them, as
calmly as if nothing had happened, to their room. They permitted me to
talk an hour longer with them. Our conversation, like the earth's
course, was about the sun. The mother declared that the sun, as it sank
in the snowy clouds, seemed like a red glowing rose, which the gallant
heaven had thrown upon the white outspreading bridal-veil of his loved
earth. The daughter smiled, and thought that a frequent observation of
such phenomena weakened their impression. The mother corrected this
error by a quotation from Goethe's _Letters of Travel_, and asked me if
I had read _Werther_. I believe that we also spoke of Angora cats,
Etruscan vases, Turkish shawls, maccaroni, and Lord Byron, from whose
poems the elder lady, daintly lisping and sighing, recited several
passages about the sunset. To the younger lady, who did not understand
English, and who wished to become familiar with those poems, I
recommended the translation of my fair and gifted countrywoman, the
Baroness Elise von Hohenhausen. On this occasion, as is my custom when
talking with young ladies, I did not fail to declaim against Byron's
godlessness, heartlessness, cheerlessness, and heaven knows what
After this business I took a walk on the Brocken, for there it is never
quite dark. The mist was not heavy, and I could see the outlines of the
two hills known as the Witch's Altar and the Devil's Pulpit. I fired my
pistol, but there was no echo. Suddenly, however, I heard familiar
voices and found myself embraced and kissed. The newcomers were
fellow-students from my own part of Germany, and had left Goettingen four
days later than I. Great was their astonishment at finding me again,
alone on the Blocksberg. Then came a flood tide of narrative, of
astonishment, and of appointment-making, of laughing, and of
recollecting, and in the spirit we found ourselves again in our learned
Siberia, where refinement is carried to such an extent that the bears
are tied up in the taverns, and the sables wish the hunter good
In the great room we had supper. There was a long table, with two rows
of hungry students. At first we indulged in the usual topic of
university conversation--duels, duels, and once again duels. The company
consisted principally of Halle students, and Halle formed, in
consequence, the nucleus of their discourse. The window-panes of
Court-Councilor Schuetz were exegetically illuminated. Then it was
mentioned that the King of Cyprus' last levee had been very brilliant;
that the monarch had chosen a natural son; that he had married with the
left hand a princess of the house of Lichtenstein; that the
State-mistress had been forced to resign, and that the entire ministry,
greatly moved, had wept according to rule. I need hardly explain that
this all referred to certain beer dignitaries in Halle. Then the two
Chinese, who two years before had been exhibited in Berlin, and who were
now appointed lecturers on Chinese esthetics in Halle, were discussed.
Then jokes were made. Some one supposed a case in which a live German
might be exhibited for money in China, and to this end a placard was
fabricated, in which the mandarins Tsching-Tschang-Tschung and Hi-Ha-Ho
certified that the man was a genuine Teuton, including a list of his
accomplishments, which consisted principally of philosophizing, smoking,
and endless patience. It concluded with the notice that visitors were
prohibited from bringing any dogs with them at twelve o'clock (the hour
for feeding the captive), as these animals would be sure to snap from
the poor German all his titbits.
A young _Burschenschafter_, who had recently passed his period of
purification in Berlin, spoke much, but very partially, of this city. He
had frequented both Wisotzki and the theatre, but judged falsely of
both. "For youth is ever ready with a word," etc. He spoke of the
sumptuousness of the costumes, of scandals among actors and actresses,
and similar matters. The youth knew not that in Berlin, where outside
show exerts the greatest influence (as is abundantly evidenced by the
commonness of the phrase "so people do"), this ostentation must flourish
on the stage preeminently, and consequently that the special care of the
management must be for "the color of the beard with which a part is
played" and for the truthfulness of the costumes which are designed by
sworn historians and sewed by scientifically instructed tailors. And
this is indispensable. For if Maria Stuart wore an apron belonging to
the time of Queen Anne, the banker, Christian Gumpel, would with justice
complain that thereby all illusion was destroyed; and if Lord Burleigh
in a moment of forgetfulness should don the hose of Henry the Fourth,
then the War-Councilor Von Steinzopf's wife, _nee_ Lilienthau, would not
get the anachronism out of her head for the whole evening.... But little
as this young man had comprehended the conditions of the Berlin drama,
still less was he aware that the Spontini Janissary opera, with its
kettledrums, elephants, trumpets, and gongs, is a heroic means of
inspiring our enervated people with warlike enthusiasm--a means once
shrewdly recommended by Plato and Cicero. Least of all did the youth
comprehend the diplomatic significance of the ballet. It was with great
trouble that I finally made him understand that there was really more
political science in Hoguet's feet than in Buchholz's head, that all his
_tours de danse_ signified diplomatic negotiations, and that his every
movement hinted at state matters; as, for instance, when he bent forward
anxiously, stretching his hands out wide and grasping at the air, he
meant our Cabinet; that a hundred pirouettes on one toe without quitting
the spot alluded to the German Diet; that he was thinking of the lesser
princes when he tripped around with his legs tied; that he described the
European balance of power when he tottered hither and thither like a
drunken man; that he hinted at a Congress when he twisted his bended
arms together like a skein; and finally, that he sets forth our
altogether too great friend in the East, when, very gradually unfolding
himself, he rises on high, stands for a long time in this elevated
position, and then all at once breaks out into the most terrifying
leaps. The scales fell from the eyes of the young man, and he now saw
how it was that dancers are better paid than great poets, and why the
ballet forms in diplomatic circles an inexhaustible subject of
conversation. By Apis! how great is the number of the esoteric, and how
small the array of the esoteric frequenters of the theatre! There sit
the stupid audience, gaping and admiring leaps and attitudes, studying
anatomy in the positions of Lemiere, and applauding the _entrechats_ of
Roehnisch, prattling of "grace," "harmony," and "limbs"--no one remarking
meanwhile that he has before him in chronological ciphers the destiny of
the German Fatherland.
* * * * *
The company around the table gradually became better acquainted and much
noisier. Wine banished beer, punch-bowls steamed, songs were sung, and
brotherhood was drunk in true student fashion. The old "Landsfather
toast" and the beautiful songs of W. Mueller, Rueckert, Uhland, and others
rang out with the exquisite airs of Methfessel. Best of all sounded our
own Arndt's German words, "The Lord, who bade iron grow, wished for no
slaves." And out of doors it roared as if the old mountain sang with us,