Rhein vs Themse

In seiner britisch-perfekten Art ringt Thomas Hood, als recht später der frühen englischen Rheintouristen, der üblichen Rolandseck-Nonnenwerth-Drachenfels-Konstellation ein paar eigene Aspekte ab, stellt den überfälligen Vergleich zur heimatlichen Themse an und entdeckt einige historische Zwerge: „And now, Gerard, could I but write scenery as Stanfield paints it, what a rare dioramic sketch you should have of the thick-coming beauties of the abounding river: – the Romantic Rolandseck – the Religious Nonnenwerth – the Picturesque Drachenfels! But „Views on the Rhine“ are little better than shadows even in engravings, and would fare still worse in the black and white of a letter. Can the best japan fluid give a notion of the shifting lights and shades, the variegated tints of the thronging mountains – of the blooming blue of the Sieben Gebirge? Besides, there is not a river or a village but has been done in pen and ink ten times over by former tourists. Let it be understood then, once for all, that i shall not attempt to turn prospects into prospectuses: „And do all the gentlemen`s seats by the way.“ I must say a few words, however, on a peculiarity which seems to have escaped the notice of other travellers: the extraordinary transparency of the atmosphere in the vicinity of the Rhine. The rapidity of the current, always racing in the same direction, probably creates a draught which carries off the mists that are so apt to hang about more sluggish streams – or to float lazily to and fro with the ebb and flow of such tide rivers as the Thames: certain it is that the lovely scenery of the „arrowy Rhine“ is viewed through an extremely pure medium. To one like myself, not particularly lynx-sighted, the effect is as some fairy euphrasy had conferred a supernatural clairvoyance on the organs of vision. Trees and shrubs, on the crests of the hills, seem made out, in the artist phrase, to their very twigs; and the whole landscape appears with the same distinctness of detail as if seen through an opera-glass or spectacles. To mention one remarkable instance: some miners were at work on the face of a high precipitous mountain near Unkel; – the distance from the steamer was considerable, so that the blows of their sledges and pickaxes were quiet unheard; yet there were the little figures, plying their tiny tools, so plainly, so apparently close to the eye, that it was difficult to believe that they were of the common dimensions of the human race. Had those dwarf miners, the Gnomes of German romance, a material as well as a fabulous existence? Of course not: but I could not help thinking that I saw before me the source whence tradition had derived the Lilliputian mine-hunting elfins of the Wisperthal, who constructed the Devil`s Ladder.“


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