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 barbarorum.
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.
* * * * *
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 heart.
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 forbidden oats."
* * * * *
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 prison.
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 porridge."
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 clothes-press.
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.
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 return."
* * * * *
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 moved.
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 purity.
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.
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 sees double.
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.
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 spot.
* * * * *
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 besides.
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 evening.
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, and a few reeling friends even asserted that he merrily shook his bald head, which caused the great unsteadiness of the floor of our room.
* * * * *
During this crazy scene, in which plates learned to dance and glasses to fly, there sat opposite me two youths, beautiful and pale as statues, one resembling Adonis, the other Apollo. The faint rosy hue which the wine spread over their cheeks was scarcely noticeable. They gazed on each other with infinite affection, as if the one could read in the eyes of the other, and in those eyes there was a light as though drops of light had fallen therein from the cup of burning love, which an angel on high bears from one star to the other. They conversed softly with earnest trembling voices, and narrated sad stories, through all of which ran a tone of strange sorrow. "Lora is dead now too!" said one, and, sighing, proceeded to tell of a maiden of Halle who had loved a student, and who, when the latter left Halle, spoke no more to any one, ate but little, wept day and night, gazing over on the canary-bird which her lover had given her. "The bird died, and Lora did not long survive it," was the conclusion, and both the youths sighed as though their hearts would break. Finally the other said, "My soul is sorrowful; come forth with me into the dark night! Let me inhale the breath of the clouds and the moon-rays. Companion of my sorrow! I love thee; thy words are musical, like the rustling of reeds and the flow of rivulets; they reecho in my breast, but my soul is sad!"
Both of the young men arose. One threw his arm around the neck of the other, and thus they left the noisy room. I followed, and saw them enter a dark chamber, where the one by mistake, instead of the window, threw open the door of a large wardrobe, and both, standing before it with outstretched arms, expressing poetic rapture, spoke alternately. "Ye breezes of darkening night," cried the first, "how ye cool and revive my cheeks! How sweetly ye play amid my fluttering locks! I stand on the cloudy peak of the mountain; far below me lie the sleeping cities of men, and blue waters gleam. List! far below in the valley rustle the fir-trees! Far above yonder hills sweep in misty forms the spirits of our fathers. Oh, that I could hunt with ye on your cloud-steeds through the stormy night, over the rolling sea, upwards to the stars! Alas! I am laden with grief, and my soul is sad!" Meanwhile, the other had also stretched out his arms toward the wardrobe, while tears fell from his eyes as he cried to a pair of yellow leather pantaloons which he mistook for the moon, "Fair art thou, daughter of heaven! Lovely and blessed is the calm of thy countenance. Thou walkest in loveliness! The stars follow thy blue path in the east! At thy glance the clouds rejoice, and their dark forms gleam with light. Who is like unto thee in heaven, thou the night-born? The stars are ashamed before thee, and turn away their sparkling eyes. Whither, ah, whither, when morning pales thy face, dost thou flee from thy path? Hast thou, like me, thy Halle? Dwellest thou amid shadows of sorrow? Have thy sisters fallen from heaven? Are they who joyfully rolled with thee through the night now no more? Yea, they have fallen down, oh! lovely light, and thou hidest thyself often to bewail them! Yet the night must come at last when thou too will have passed away, and left thy blue path above in heaven. Then the stars, that were once ashamed in thy presence, will raise their green heads and rejoice. But now art clothed in thy beaming splendor and gazest down from the gate of heaven. Tear aside the clouds, oh! ye winds, that the night-born may shine forth and the bushy hills gleam, and that the foaming waves of the sea may roll in light!"
* * * * *
I can bear a tolerable quantity—modesty forbids me to say how many bottles—and I consequently retired to my chamber in tolerably good condition. The young merchant already lay in bed, enveloped in his chalk-white night-cap and saffron yellow night-shirt of sanitary flannel. He was not asleep, and sought to enter into conversation with me. He was from Frankfurt-on-the-Main, and consequently spoke at once of the Jews, declared that they had lost all feeling for the beautiful and noble, and that they sold English goods twenty-five per cent. under manufacturers' prices. A fancy to humbug him came over me, and I told him that I was a somnambulist, and must beforehand beg his pardon should I unwittingly disturb his slumbers. This intelligence, as he confessed the following day, prevented him from sleeping a wink through the whole night, especially since the idea had entered his head that I, while in a somnambulistic state, might shoot him with the pistol which lay near my bed. But in truth I fared no better myself, for I slept very little. Dreary and terrifying fancies swept through my brain....
From this confusion I was rescued by the landlord of the Brocken, when he awoke me to see the sun rise. On the tower I found several people already waiting, and rubbing their freezing hands; others, with sleep still in their eyes, stumbled up to us, until finally the whole silent congregation of the previous evening was reassembled, and we saw how, above the horizon, there rose a little carmine-red ball, spreading a dim, wintry light. Far around, amid the mists, rose the mountains, as if swimming in a white rolling sea, only their summits being visible, so that we could imagine ourselves standing on a little hill in the midst of an inundated plain, in which here and there rose dry clods of earth. To retain what I saw and felt, I sketched the following poem:
In the east 'tis ever brighter, Though the sun gleams fitfully; Far and wide the mountain summits Swim above the misty sea.
Had I seven-league boots for travel, Like the fleeting winds I'd rove Over valley, rock, and river, To the home of her I love.
From the bed where now she's sleeping Soft the curtain I would slip; Softly kiss her childlike forehead, Kiss the ruby of her lip.
Yet more softly would I whisper In the little lily ear, "Think in dreams we still are loving, Think I never lost thee, dear."
Meanwhile my longing for breakfast was also great, and, after paying a few compliments to my ladies, I hastened down to drink coffee in the warm public room. It was full time, for all within me was as sober and as sombre as in the St. Stephen's Church at Goslar. But with the Arabian beverage, the warm Orient thrilled through my limbs, Eastern roses breathed forth their perfumes, sweet bulbul songs resounded, the students were changed to camels, the Brocken housemaids, with their Congreverocket-glances, became houris, the Philistine noses, minarets, etc.
But the book which lay near me, though full of nonsense, was not the Koran. It was the so-called "Brocken-book," in which all travelers who ascend the mountain write their names—most inscribing their thoughts, or, in default thereof, their "feelings." Many even express themselves in verse. In this book one may observe the horrors which result when the great Philistine host on opportune occasions, such as this on the Brocken, becomes poetic. The palace of the Prince of Pallagonia never contained such absurdities as are to be found in this book. Those who shine in it with especial splendor are Messrs. the excise collectors, with their moldy "high inspirations;" counter-jumpers, with their pathetic outgushings of the soul; old German revolution dilettanti with their Turner-Union phrases, and Berlin school-masters with their unsuccessful efforts at enthusiasm. Mr. Snobbs will also for once show himself as author. In one page the majestic splendor of the sunrise is described, in another complaints occur of bad weather, of disappointed hopes, and of the mists which obstruct the view. A "Caroline" writes that in climbing the mountain her feet got wet, to which a naive "Nanny," who was impressed by this, adds, "I too, got wet while doing this thing." "Went up wet without and came down wet within," is a standing joke, repeated in the book hundreds of times. The whole volume smells of beer, tobacco and cheese; we might fancy it one of Clauren's novels.
* * * * *
And now the students prepared to depart. Knapsacks were buckled, the bills, which were moderate beyond all expectation, were settled, the susceptible housemaids, upon whose countenances the traces of successful amours were plainly visible, brought, as is their custom, their Brocken-bouquets, and helped some to adjust their caps; for all of which they were duly rewarded with either kisses or coppers. Thus we all went down the mountain, albeit one party, among whom were the Swiss and Greifswalder, took the road toward Schierke, and the others, about twenty men, among whom were my fellow "countrymen" and myself, led by a guide, went through the so-called "Snow Holes" down to Ilsenburg.