Hume in Koblenz: the Rhine, the finest river in the world

Coblentz, 26th March.

We have made the pleasantest journey in the world in two days from Bonne to this town. We travel all along the banks of the Rhine; sometimes in open, beautiful, well-cultivated plains; at another time sunk betwixt high mountains, which are only divided by the Rhine, the finest river in the world. One of these mountains is always covered with wood to the top; the other with vines; and the mountain is so steep that they are obliged to support the earth by walls, which rise one above another like terraces to the length of forty or fifty stories. Every quarter of a mile, (indeed as often as there is any flat bottom for a foundation,) you meet with a handsome village, situated in the most romantic manner in the world. Surely there never was such an assemblage of the wild and cultivated beauties in one scene. There are also several magnificent convents and palaces to embellish the prospects.
This is a very thriving well-built town, situated at the confluence of the Moselle and the Rhine, and consequently very finely situated. Over the former river there is a handsome stone bridge; over the latter a flying bridge, which is a boat fixed by a chain: this chain is fixed by an anchor to the bottom of the middle of the river far above, and is supported by seven little boats placed at intervals that keep it along the surface of the water. By means of the rudder, they turn the head of the large boat to the opposite bank, and the current of the river carries it over of itself. It goes over in about four minutes, and will carry four or five hundred people. It stays about five or six minutes and then returns. Two men are sufficient to guide it, and it is certainly a very pretty machine. There is the like at Cologne. This town is the common residence of the Archbishop of Treves, who has here a pretty magnificent palace. We have now travelled along a great part of that country, through which the Duke of Marlborough marched up his army, when he led them into Bavaria. ‘Tis of this country Mr. Addison speaks when he calls the people —

Nations of slaves by Tyranny debased,
Their Maker’s image more than half-defaced.

And he adds that the soldiers were —

Hourly instructed as they urge their toil,
To prize their Queen and love their native soil.

If any foot soldier could have more ridiculous national prejudices than the poet, I should be much surprised. Be assured there is not a finer country in the world; nor are there any signs of poverty among the people. But John Bull’s prejudices are ridiculous, as his insolence is intolerable.

(David Hume)


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