Anne of Geierstein

Upon the Rhine, upon the Rhine they cluster.
The grapes of juice divine,
Which makes the soldier’s jovial courage muster;
0 blessed be the Rhine!

–Drinking Song

A cottage or two on the side of the river, beside which were moored one or two fishing-boats, showed the pious Hans had successors in his profession as a boatman. The river, which at a point a little lower was restrained by a chain of islets, expanded more widely, and moved less rapidly, than when it passed these cottages, affording to the ferryman a smoother surface, and a less heavy stream to contend with, although the current was even there too strong to be borne up against, unless the river was in a tranquil state.

On the opposite bank, but a good deal lower than the hamlet which gave name to the ferry, was seated on a small eminence, screened by trees and bushes, the little town of Kirchhoff. A skiff departing from the left bank was, even on favorable occasions, carried considerably to leeward ere it could attain the opposite side of the deep and full stream of the Rhine, so that its course was oblique towards Kirchhoff. On the other hand, a boat departing from Kirchhoff must have great advantage both of wind and oars, in order to land its loading or crew at the Chapel of the Ferry, unless it were under the miraculous influence which carried the image of the Virgin in that direction. The communication, therefore, from the east to the west bank, was only maintained by towing boats up the stream, to such a height on the eastern side, that the leeway which they made during the voyage across might correspond with the point at which they desired to arrive, and enable them to attain it with ease. Hence, it naturally happened, that the passage from Alsace into Swabia being the most easy, the ferry was more used by those who were desirous of entering Germany, than by travellers who came in an opposite direction.

When the elder Philipson had by a glance around him ascertained the situation of the ferry, he said firmly to his son, — “Begone, my dear Arthur, and do what I have commanded thee.”

With a heart rent with filial anxiety, the young man obeyed, and took his solitary course towards the cottages, near which the barks were moored, which were occasionally used for fishing, as well as for the purposes of the ferry.

“Your son leaves us?” said Bartholomew to the elder Philipson.

“He does for the present,” said his father, “as he has certain inquiries to make in yonder hamlet.”

“If they be,” answered the guide, “any matters connected with your honor’s road, I laud the Saints that I can better answer your inquiries than those ignorant boors, who hardly understand your language.”

“If we find that their information needs thy commentary,” said Philipson, “we will request it — meanwhile, lead on to the chapel, where my son will join us.”

They moved towards the chapel, but with slow steps, each turning his looks aside to the fishing hamlet; the guide as if striving to see whether the younger traveller was returning towards them, the father anxious to descry, on the broad bosom of the Rhine, a sail unloosed, to waft his son across to that which might be considered as the safer side. But though the looks of both guide and traveller were turned in the direction of the river, their steps carried them towards the chapel, to which the inhabitants, in memory of the founder, had given the title of Hans-Chapelle.

A few trees scattered around gave an agreeable and silvan air to the place; and the chapel, that appeared on a rising ground at some distance from the hamlet, was constructed in a style of pleasing simplicity, which corresponded with the whole scene. Its small size confirmed the tradition that it had originally been merely the hut of a peasant; and the cross of fir-tree, covered with bark, attested the purpose to which it was now dedicated. The chapel and all round it breathed peace and solemn tranquillity, and the deep sound of the mighty river seemed to impose silence on each human voice which might presume to mingle with its awful murmur.

When Philipson arrived in the vicinity, Bartholomew took the advantage afforded by his silence to thunder forth two stanzas to the praise of the Lady of the Ferry, and her faithful worshipper Hans, after which he broke forth into the rapturous exclamation, — “Come hither, ye who fear wreck, here is your safe haven! — Come hither, ye who die of thirst, here is a well of mercy open to you! — Come those who are weary and far-travelled, this is your place of refreshment!” — and more to the same purpose he might have said, but Philipson sternly imposed silence on him.

“If thy devotion were altogether true,” he said, “it would be less clamorous; but it is well to do what is good in itself, even if it is a hypocrite who recommends it. — Let us enter this holy chapel, and pray for a fortunate issue to our precarious travels.”

The pardoner caught up the last words.

“Sure was I,” he said, “that your worship is too well advised pass this holy place without imploring the protection and influence of Our Lady of the Ferry. Tarry but a moment until I find the priest who serves the altar, that he may say a mass on your behalf.”

(aus: Walter Scott – Anne of Geierstein, or The Maiden of the Mist, Kapitel 18, Edinburgh 1829)


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