At the head of his troop the knight rode boldly into France and offered his services to a distinguished French leader, to whom he soon became indispensable—so much so, in fact, that the nobleman cast about for a means of retaining permanently in his train a knight of such skill and courage. But he could think of nothing with which to tempt the young man, who was already possessed of gold and lands, till the artless glances of his youngest daughter gave him his cue. For he saw that she had lately begun to look with some favour on the simple knight of Staufenberg, and it occurred to him that the hand of a lady of rank and beauty would be a very desirable bait. Nor was he mistaken, for the gaieties of the Frankish court had dazzled the knight, and the offer of the lady's hand completely turned his head; not that he felt a great affection for her, but because of the honour done to him. So he accepted the offer and drowned, as best as he could, the remembrance of his wife and child at Staufenberg. Nevertheless he sometimes felt that he was not acting honourably, and at length the struggle between his love for his wife and his pride and ambition became so severe that he determined to consult a priest.
The good man crossed himself when he heard the story. "She whom you married is an evil spirit," said he. "Beneficent spirits do not wed human beings. It is your duty to renounce her at once and do penance for your sin." Though he hardly found it possible to believe the priest's assertion, the knight strove to persuade himself that it was true, and that he was really acting virtuously in renouncing the water-nymph and marrying again. So he performed the penances prescribed by the priest, and allowed the wedding preparations to proceed.
When the day of his wedding arrived, however, he was strangely perturbed and pale. The rejoicings of the people, the gay processions, even the beautiful bride, seemed to have no interest for him. When the hand of the lady was placed in his he could not repress an exclamation; it was cold to the touch like the hand of a corpse.
On returning the wedding procession was obliged to cross a bridge, and as they approached it a great storm arose so that the waters of the stream washed over the feet of the bridegroom's horse, making it prance and rear. The knight was stricken with deadly terror, for he knew that the doom of which the water-nymph had spoken was about to overtake him. Without a word he plunged into the torrent and was nevermore seen.
At the very hour of this tragedy a great storm raged round the castle of Staufenberg, and when it abated the mother and child had disappeared for ever. Yet even now on a stormy night she can still be heard among the tree-tops weeping passionately, and the sound is accompanied by the whimpering of a child.
Trifels and Richard Coeur-de-Lion
As a troop of horsemen rode through Annweiler toward the castle of Trifels, in which Richard Coeur-de-Lion was imprisoned by the Archduke of Austria, his deadly enemy, the plaintive notes of a familiar lay fell on their ears. The singer was a young shepherd, and one of the knights, a troubadour, asked him to repeat his ditty. The youth complied, and the knight accompanied him as he sang, their voices blending tunefully together.
Giving him generous largess, the knight asked the minstrel who had taught him that song. The shepherd replied that he had heard it sung in the castle of Trifels. At this intelligence the stranger appeared highly gratified, and, turning to his companions, ejaculated: "The King is found!"
It was evident to the shepherd that the new-comers were friends of Richard, and he warned them earnestly that danger lay before them. Only by guile could they hope to succour their King. The warning was heeded, and the tuneful knight rode forward alone, disguised in a minstrel's tunic, in which he was welcomed at the castle. His courtly bearing soon won him the favour of the castellan's pretty niece, who persuaded her uncle to listen to his songs. During one of their stolen interviews the girl betrayed the place where the King of England was imprisoned, and that night, from beneath a window, the minstrel heard his King's well-remembered voice breathing a prayer for freedom. His hopes being thus confirmed, he took his harp and played the melody which he himself had composed for Richard. The King immediately joined in the familiar lay. When its strains had ended, "Blondel!" cried the captive excitedly. The minstrel cautiously replied by singing another song, telling how he was pledged to liberate his master.
But suspicion was aroused, and Blondel was requested to depart on the following day. Deeming it prudent to make no demur, he mounted his horse, after having arranged with the castellan's niece to return secretly at nightfall. He rode no further than an inn near Annweiler, which commanded a view of the castle. There his host informed him that the Emperor was presently to be crowned at Frankfort, and that on the evening of that day the garrison would celebrate the event by drinking his health.
The minstrel said that he would certainly join the company, ordered wine for the occasion, and promised to pay the reckoning. He then withdrew to seek his comrades. At dusk he returned stealthily to the castle, and at his signal the maid appeared at a little postern and admitted him.
On the day of the Emperor's coronation stealthy forms crept among the trees near by the castle, and concealed themselves in the thick foliage of the underbrush. The garrison, gaily dressed, quitted the keep, the drawbridge was lowered, and the men were soon quaffing the choice wine which the stranger had ordered.
Meanwhile Blondel had appeared before the postern and had given his accustomed signal; for a time there was no response, and the minstrel was becoming impatient, when the gate was suddenly opened and the maiden appeared.
The minstrel now told the girl his reason for coming hither: how he hoped to liberate the captive monarch. As a reward for her connivance he promised to take her with him to England. Then he beckoned to his friends, there was a sudden rush, and armed forms thronged the postern. The frightened maid, dreading lest violence should overtake her uncle, shrieked loudly; but her cries were unheeded, and the English knights pressed into the courtyard.
The assailants met with little resistance, seized the keys, threw open the prison door, and liberated their King. The castellan protested loudly, and threatened Richard with mighty words, but all to no purpose. When the garrison returned they were powerless to render aid, for the castellan was threatened with death should his followers attack the castle. In the end a truce was made, and the English were allowed to retire unmolested with their King. Although urged by him, the maid refused to accompany Blondel, so, giving her a gold ring as a memento, he parted from her.
Returning again many years afterward, the minstrel once more heard the same song which the King had sung to his harp in the castle of Trifels. Entering the inn, he recognized in the landlord the one-time shepherd-boy. From him he learnt that the castellan had perished by an unknown hand, and that his pretty niece, having, as she thought, plumbed the depths of masculine deceit, had entered the nunnery of Eberstein at Baden.
Thann in Alsace
Thann is known to legend by two things: a steeple and a field. The steeple was built in a season of great drought. Water had failed everywhere; there was only the thinnest trickle from the springs and fountains with which the people might allay their thirst. Yet, strangely, the vineyards had yielded a wonderful harvest of luscious grapes, and the wine was so abundant that the supply of casks and vessels was insufficient for the demand. Therefore did it happen that the mortar used for building the steeple was mixed with wine, wherefore the lime was changed to must. And it is said that even to this day, when the vines are in blossom, a delicate fragrance steals from the old steeple and on the stones a purple dew is seen, while some declare that there is a deeper tone in the harmony of the bells.
The field is a terrible place, barren and desolate, for it is avoided as a spot accursed. No living thing moves upon it; the earth is streaked with patches of dark moss and drifts of ghastly skulls, like a scattered harvest of death. Once, says the legend, a wayfarer, surprised by the swift-fallen night, lost himself on the plain. As he stumbled in the darkness he heard the clocks of the town near by strike the hour of midnight. At this the stillness about the wanderer was broken. Under his feet the earth seemed to tremble, there was a rattling of weapons, and there sounded the tramp of armed men and the tumult of battle.
Suddenly the shape of a man in armour appeared before him, terrific and menacing.
"What do you seek here, in a field that has been accursed through many centuries?" he asked. "Do you not know that this is a place of terror and death? Are you a stranger that you stand on the place where a king, Louis the Pious, betrayed by his own sons, was handed over to his enemies, his crown torn from his head by his own troops? And he who would have died gladly in battle suffered the shame and dishonour that were worse than death. He lifted up his hands to heaven and cried with bitterness: 'There is no such thing on earth as faith and loyalty. Accursed be sons and warriors, accursed be this field whereon such deeds have been done, accursed be they for ever!'"
The spectre paused and his words echoed across the field like the cry of a lost soul. Again he spoke to the trembling wanderer: "And that curse has endured through the centuries. Under this plain in mile-wide graves we faithless warriors lie, our bones knowing no repose; and never will that curse of our betrayed king be lifted from us or this place!"
The spectral warrior sank into the gloomy earth, the tumult of fighting died away. The wayfarer, seized with terror, stumbled blindly on in the night.
Strassburg, the capital of Alsace-Lorraine, is only two miles west of the Rhine. The city is of considerable antiquity, and boasts a cathedral of great beauty, in which the work of four centuries is displayed to wonderful advantage. By the light of the stained-glass windows the famous astronomical clock in the south transept can be descried, still containing some fragments of the horologe constructed by the mathematician Conrad Dasypodius in 1574. This, however, does not tally with the well-known legend of the clock, which now follows.
The Clockmaker of Strassburg
There dwelt in the town of Strassburg an old clockmaker. So wrapped up was he in his art that he seemed to live in a world of his own, quite indifferent to the customs and practices of ordinary life; he forgot his meals, forgot his sleep, cared nothing for his clothes, and would have been in evil case indeed had not his daughter Guta tended him with filial affection. In his absent-minded fashion he was really very fond of Guta, fonder even than he was of his clocks, and that is saying not a little.
The neighbours, busy, energetic folk who performed their daily tasks and drank wine with their friends, scoffed at the dreamy, unpractical old fellow and derided his occupation as the idle pastime of a mind not too well balanced. But the clockmaker, finding in his workroom all that he needed of excitement, of joy and sorrow, of elation and despondency, did not miss the pleasures of social life, nor did he heed the idle gossip of which he was the subject.
It need hardly be said that such a man had but few acquaintances; yet a few he had, and among them one who is worthy of especial note—a wealthy citizen who aspired to a position of civic honour in Strassburg. In appearance he was lean, old, and ugly, with hatchet-shaped face and cunning, malevolent eyes; and when he pressed his hateful attentions on the fair Guta she turned from him in disgust.
One day this creature called on the clockmaker, announced that he had been made a magistrate, and demanded the hand of Guta, hinting that it would go ill with the master should he refuse.
The clockmaker was taken completely by surprise, but he offered his congratulations and called the girl to speak for herself as to her hand. When Guta heard the proposal she cast indignant glances at the ancient magistrate, whereupon he, without giving her an opportunity to speak, said quickly:
"Do not answer me now, sweet maid; do not decide hastily, I beg of you, for such a course might bring lasting trouble on you and your father. I will return to-morrow for your answer."
When he was gone Guta flung herself into her father's arms and declared that she could never marry the aged swain.
"My dear," said the clockmaker soothingly, "you shall do as you please. Heed not his threats, for when I have finished my great work we shall be as rich and powerful as he."
On the following day the magistrate called again, looking very important and self-satisfied, and never doubting but that the answer would be favourable. But when Guta told him plainly that she would not marry him his rage was unbounded, and he left the house vowing vengeance on father and daughter.
Scarcely was he gone ere a handsome youth entered the room and looked with some surprise at the disturbed appearance of Guta and her father. When he heard the story he was most indignant; later, when the clockmaker had left the young people alone, Guta confessed that the attentions of the magistrate were loathsome to her, and burst into tears.
The young man had long loved the maiden in secret, and he could conceal his passion no longer. He begged that she would become his bride, and Guta willingly consented, but suggested that they should not mention the matter to her father till the latter had completed his great clock, which he fondly believed was soon to bring him fame and fortune. She also proposed that her lover should offer to become her father's partner—for he, too, was a clockmaker—so that in the event of the master's great work proving a failure his business should still be secure. The young man at once acted upon the suggestion, and the father gratefully received the proffered assistance.
At last the day came when the clockmaker joyfully announced that his masterpiece was finished, and he called upon Guta and his young partner to witness his handiwork. They beheld a wonderful clock, of exquisite workmanship, and so constructed that the striking of the hour automatically set in motion several small figures. The young people were not slow to express their admiration and their confidence that fame was assured.
When the clock was publicly exhibited the scepticism of the citizens was changed to respect; praise and flattery flowed from the lips that had formerly reviled its inventor. Nevertheless the civic authorities, urged thereto by Guta's discarded lover, refused to countenance any attempt to procure the wonderful clock for the town. But soon its fame spread abroad to other cities. Members of the clockmakers' guild of Basel travelled to see it, and raised their hands in surprise and admiration. Finally the municipal authorities of Basel made arrangements to purchase it.
But at this point the citizens of Strassburg stepped in and insisted on preserving the clock in their own city, and it was therefore purchased for a round sum and erected in a chapel of the Strassburg Cathedral. The corporation of Basel, having set their hearts on the wonderful timepiece, commissioned the clockmaker to make another like it, and offered substantial remuneration. The old man gladly agreed, but his arch-enemy, hearing of the arrangement and scenting a fine opportunity for revenge, contrived to raise an outcry against the proposal. "Where was the advantage," asked the magistrates, "in possessing a wonderful clock if every city in Germany was to have one?" So to preserve the uniqueness of their treasure they haled the old clockmaker before a tribunal and ordered him to cease practising his art. This he indignantly refused to do, and the council, still instigated by his enemy, finally decided that his eyes be put out, so that his skill in clockmaking should come to a decided end. Not a few objections were raised to so cruel a decision, but these were at length overruled. The victim heard the dreadful sentence without a tremor, and when asked if he had any boon to crave ere it were carried out, he answered quietly that he would like to make a few final improvements in his clock, and wished to suffer his punishment in its presence.
Accordingly when the day came the old man was conducted to the place where his masterpiece stood. There, under pretence of making the promised improvements, he damaged the works, after which he submitted himself to his torturers. Hardly had they carried out their cruel task when, to the consternation of the onlookers, the clock began to emit discordant sounds and to whirr loudly. When it had continued thus for a while the gong struck thirteen and the mechanism came to a standstill.
"Behold my handiwork!" cried the blind clockmaker. "Behold my revenge!"
His assistant approached and led him gently away. Henceforward he lived happily with Guta and her husband, whose affectionate care compensated in part for the loss of his eyesight and his enforced inability to practise his beloved art. When the story became known the base magistrate was deprived of his wealth and his office and forced to quit the town.
And as for the clock, it remained in its disordered state till 1843, when it was once more restored to its original condition.
The Trumpeter of Saeckingen
A beautiful and romantic tale which has inspired more than one work of art is the legend of the Trumpeter of Saeckingen; it shares with "The Lorelei" and a few other legends the distinction of being the most widely popular in Rhenish folklore.
One evening in early spring, so the legend runs, a gallant young soldier emerged from the Black Forest opposite Saeckingen and reined in his steed on the banks of the Rhine. Night was at hand, and the snow lay thickly on the ground. For a few moments the wayfarer pondered whither he should turn for food and shelter, for his steed and the trumpet he carried under his cavalry cloak were all he possessed in the world; then with a reckless gesture he seized the trumpet and sounded some lively notes which echoed merrily over the snow.
The parish priest, toiling painfully up the hill, heard the martial sound, and soon encountered the soldier, who saluted him gravely. The priest paused to return the greeting, and entering into conversation with the horseman, he learned that he was a soldier of fortune, whereupon he invited him with simple cordiality to become his guest. The proffer of hospitality was gratefully accepted, and the kindly old man led the stranger to his home.
The old priest, though not a little curious with regard to his guest's previous history, forbore out of courtesy to question him, but the warmth and cheer soon loosened the trumpeter's tongue, and he volunteered to tell the old man his story. Shorn of detail, it ran as follows: The soldier's youth had been passed at the University of Heidelberg, where he had lived a gay and careless life, paying so little attention to his studies that at the end of his course his only asset was a knowledge of music, picked up from a drunken trumpeter in exchange for the wherewithal to satisfy his thirst. The legal profession, which his guardian had designed for him, was clearly impossible with such meagre acquirements, so he had joined a cavalry regiment and fought in the Thirty Years' War. At the end of the war his horse and his trumpet were his sole possessions, and from that time he had wandered through the world, gaining a scanty livelihood with the aid of his music. Such was his history.
That night Werner—for so the young man was called—slept soundly in the house of the old priest, and next morning he rose early to attend the festival of St. Fridolin, in celebration of which a procession was organized every year at Saeckingen. There, at the head of a band of girls, he beheld a maid who outshone them all in beauty and grace, and to her he immediately lost his heart. From that moment the gaieties of the festival had no attraction for him, and he wandered disconsolately among the merry-makers, thinking only of the lovely face that had caught his fancy.
Toward nightfall he embarked in a little boat and floated idly down the Rhine. Suddenly, to his amazement, there arose from the water the handsome, youthful figure of the Rhine-god, who had recognized in his pale cheek and haggard eye the infallible signs of a lover. Indicating a castle at the edge of the river, the apparition informed Werner that his lady-love dwelt therein, and he bade him take heart and seek some mode of communicating with her. At this Werner plucked up courage to row ashore to his lady's abode. There in the garden, beneath a lighted window, he played an exquisite serenade, every perfect note of which told of his love and grief and the wild hopes he would never dare to express in words.
Now, the lord of the castle was at that very moment telling to his beautiful daughter the story of his own long-past wooing; he paused in his tale and bade his daughter listen to the melting strains. When the notes had died away an attendant was dispatched to learn who the musician might be, but ere he reached the garden Werner had re-embarked and was lost to sight on the river. However, on the following day the nobleman pursued his inquiries in the village and the musician was discovered in an inn.
In obedience to a summons the trumpeter hastened to the castle, where the old lord greeted him very kindly, giving him a place with his musicians, and appointing him music-master to the fair Margaretha. Henceforward his path lay in pleasant places, for the young people were thrown a great deal into each other's society, and in time it became evident that the lady returned the young soldier's tender passion. Yet Werner did not dare to declare his love, for Margaretha was a maiden of high degree, and he but a poor musician who not so very long ago had been a homeless wanderer.
One day Werner heard strange, discordant sounds issuing from the music-room, and thinking that some mischievous page was taking liberties with his trumpet, he quietly made his way to the spot, to find that the inharmonious sounds resulted from the vain attempt of his fair pupil to play the instrument. When the girl observed that her endeavours had been overheard, she joined her merriment with that of her teacher, and Werner then and there taught her a bugle-call.
A few weeks later the nobleman, hearing of a rising of the peasants, hastened to Saeckingen to restore order, leaving his daughter and Werner to guard the castle. That night an attempt was made upon the stronghold. Werner courageously kept the foe at bay, but was wounded in the melee, and Margaretha, seeing her lover fall and being unable to reach him, took the trumpet and sounded the bugle-call he had taught her, hoping that her father would hear it and hasten his return. And, sure enough, that was what happened; the nobleman returned with all speed to the assistance of the little garrison, and the remnant of the assailants were routed. Werner, who was happily not wounded seriously, now received every attention.
Her lover's peril had taught Margaretha beyond a doubt where her affections lay, and she showed such unfeigned delight at his recovery that he forgot the difference in their rank and told her of his love. There on the terrace they plighted their troth, and vowed to remain true to each other, whatever might befall. Werner now ventured to seek the nobleman that he might acquaint him of the circumstances and beg for his daughter's hand, but ere he could prefer his request the old man proceeded to tell him that he had but just received a letter from an old friend desiring that his son should marry Margaretha. As the young man was of noble birth, he added, and eligible in every respect he was disposed to agree to the arrangement, and he desired Werner to write to him and invite him to Saeckingen. The unfortunate soldier now made his belated announcement; but the old man shook his head and declared that only a nobleman should wed with his daughter. It is true he was greatly attached to the young musician, but his ideas were those of his times, and so Werner was obliged to quit his service and fare once more into the wide world.
Years passed by, and Margaretha, who had resolutely discouraged the advances of her high-born lover, grew so pale and woebegone that her father in despair sent her to Italy. When in Rome she went one Sunday with her maid to St. Peter's Church, and there, leading the Papal choir, was her lover! Margaretha promptly fainted, and Werner, who had recognized his beloved, was only able with difficulty to perform the remainder of his choral duties. Meanwhile the Pope had observed that the young man was deeply affected, and believing this to be caused by the lady's indisposition, he desired that the couple should be brought before him at the conclusion of the service. With kindly questioning he elicited the whole story, and was so touched by the romance that he immediately created Werner Marquis of Santo Campo and arranged that the marriage of the young people should take place at once. Immediately after the ceremony, having received the Papal blessing, they returned to Saeckingen, where the father of the bride greeted them cordially, for Margaretha was restored to health and happiness, and his own condition was satisfied, for had she not brought home a noble husband?
In the woods of Zaehringen there dwelt a young charcoal-burner. His parents before him had followed the same humble calling, and one might have supposed that the youth would be well satisfied to emulate their simple industry and contentment. But in truth it was not so.
On one occasion, while on an errand to the town, he had witnessed a tournament, and the brilliant spectacle of beauty and chivalry had lingered in his memory and fired his boyish enthusiasm, so that thenceforth he was possessed by 'divine discontent.' The romance of the ancient forests wherein he dwelt fostered his strange longings, and in fancy he already saw himself a knight, fighting in the wars, jousting in the lists, receiving, perchance, the prize of the tourney from the fair hands of its queen. And, indeed, in all save birth and station he was well fitted for the profession of arms—handsome, brave, spirited, and withal gentle and courteous.
Time passed, and his ambitions seemed as far as ever from realization. Yet the ambitious mind lacks not fuel for its fires; the youth's imagination peopled the woody solitudes with braver company than courts could boast—vivid, unreal dream-people, whose shadowy presence increased his longing for the actuality. The very winds whispered mysteriously of coming triumphs, and as he listened his unrest grew greater. At length there came a time when dreams no longer satisfied him, and he pondered how he might attain his desires.
"I will go out into the world," he said to himself, "and take service under some great knight. Then, peradventure—"
At this point his musings were interrupted by the approach of an old man, clad in the garb of a hermit.
"My son," he said, "what aileth thee? Nay"—as the youth looked up in astonishment—"nay, answer me not, for I know what thou wouldst have. Yet must thou not forsake thy lowly occupation; that which thou dost seek will only come to thee whilst thou art engaged thereon. Follow me, and I will show thee the spot where thy destiny will meet thee."
The young man, not yet recovered from his surprise, followed his aged guide to a distant part of the forest. Then the hermit bade him farewell and left him to ponder on the cryptic saying: "Here thy destiny will meet thee."
"Time will show the old man's meaning, I suppose," he said to himself; "in any case, I may as well burn charcoal here as elsewhere."
He set to work, hewed down some great trees, and built a kiln, which, before lighting, he covered with stony earth. What was his amazement when, on removing the cover of the kiln in due course, he discovered within some pieces of pure gold! A moment's reflection convinced him that the precious metal must have been melted out of the stones, so he again built a kiln, and experienced the same gratifying result. Delighted with his good fortune, he concealed his treasure in an appropriate hiding-place and proceeded to repeat the process till he had obtained and hidden a large fortune, of whose existence none but himself was aware.
One night, as he lay awake listening to the wind in the trees—for his great wealth had this drawback, that it robbed him of his sleep—he fancied he heard a knock at the door. At first he thought he must have been mistaken, but as he hesitated whether to rise or not the knock was repeated. Boldly he undid the door—a feat requiring no small courage in that remote part of the forest, where robbers and freebooters abounded—and there, without, stood a poor wayfarer, who humbly begged admittance. He was being pursued, he declared; would the charcoal-burner shelter him for a few days? Touched by the suppliant's plight, and moved by feelings worthy of his chivalrous ideals, the youth readily extended the hospitality of his poor home, and for some time the stranger sojourned there in peace. He did not offer to reveal his identity, nor was he questioned on that point. But one morning he declared his intention of taking his departure.
"My friend," he said warmly, "I know not how I may thank you for your brave loyalty. The time has come when you must know whom you have served so faithfully. Behold your unfortunate Emperor, overcome in battle, deprived of friends and followers and fortune!"
At these astounding words the young charcoal-burner sank on his knees before the Emperor.
"Sire," he said, "you have yet one humble subject who will never forsake you while life remains to him."
"I know," replied the Emperor gently, raising him to his feet, "and therefore I ask of you one last service. It is that you may lead me by some secret path to the place where the remnant of my followers await me. Alas, that I, once so powerful, should be unable to offer you any token of a sovereign's gratitude!"
"Sire," ventured the youth, "methinks I may be privileged to render yet one more service to your Majesty." Straightway he told the story of his hidden treasure and with simple dignity placed it at the disposal of his sovereign, asking for nothing in return but the right to spend his strength in the Emperor's service—a right which was readily accorded him.
The gold, now withdrawn from its place of concealment, proved to be a goodly store, and with it the Emperor had no difficulty in raising another army. Such was the courage and confidence of his new troops that the first battle they fought resulted in victory. But the most valiant stand was made by the erstwhile charcoal-burner, who found on that field the opportunity of which he had long dreamt. The Emperor showed his recognition of the gallant services by knighting the young man on the field of battle. On the eminence whither the old hermit had led him the knight built a castle which was occupied by himself and his successors for many generations.
And thus did the charcoal-burner become the knight of Zaehringen, the friend of his Emperor, the first of a long line of illustrious knights, honoured and exalted beyond his wildest dreams.
With this legend we close on a brighter and more hopeful note than is usually associated with legends of the Rhine. The reader may have observed in perusing these romances how closely they mirror their several environments. For the most part those which are gay and buoyant in spirit have for the places of their birth slopes where is prisoned the sunshine which later sparkles in the wine-cup and inspires song and cheerfulness. Those, again, which are sombre and tragic have as background the gloomy forest, the dark and windy promontory which overhangs the darker river, or the secluded nunnery. In such surroundings is fostered the germ of tragedy, that feeling of the inevitable which is inherent in all great literature. It is to a tragic imagination of a lofty type that we are indebted for the greatest of these legends, and he who cannot appreciate their background of gloomy grandeur will never come at the true spirit of that mighty literature of Germany, at once the joy and the despair of all who know it.
Countless songs, warlike and tender, sad and passionate, have been penned on the river whose deathless tales we have been privileged to display to the reader. But no such strains of regret upon abandoning its shores have been sung as those which passed the lips of the English poet, Byron, and it is fitting that this book should end with lines so appropriate:
Adieu to thee, fair Rhine! How long delighted The stranger fain would linger on his way! Thine is a scene alike where souls united Or lonely Contemplation thus might stray; And could the ceaseless vultures cease to prey On self-condemning bosoms, it were here, Where Nature, nor too sombre nor too gay, Wild but not rude, awful yet not austere, Is to the mellow Earth as Autumn to the year.
Adieu to thee again! a vain adieu! There can be no farewell to scene like thine; The mind is colour'd by thy every hue; And if reluctantly the eyes resign Their cherish'd gaze upon thee, lovely Rhine! 'Tis with the thankful heart of parting praise; More mighty spots may rise, more glaring shine, But none unite in one attaching maze The brilliant, fair, and soft,—the glories of old days.
The negligently grand, the fruitful bloom Of coming ripeness, the white city's sheen, The rolling stream, the precipice's gloom, The forest's growth, and Gothic walls between, The wild rocks shaped as they had turrets been, In mockery of man's art: and there withal A race of faces happy as the scene, Whose fertile bounties here extend to all, Still springing o'er thy banks, though Empires near them fall.