Petrarca über Köln, den Rhein und die Rhône

Franciscus Petrarca Iohanni Columnae Cardinali salutem plurimam dicit

Aquis digressum, sed prius, unde ortum oppidi nomen putant, aquis Baiano more tepentibus ablutum, excepit Agrippina Colonia, quae ad sinistrum Rheni latus sita est: locus et situ et flumine clarus et populo. mirum in terra barbarica quanta civilitas, quae urbis species, quae virorum gravitas, quae munditiae matronarum! forte Iohannis Baptistae vigilia erat, dum illuc applicui: et iam ad occidentem sol vergebat. confestim amicorum monitu (nam et ibi amicos prius mihi fama pepererat, quam meritum) ab hospitio traducor ad fluvium, insigne spectaculum visurus. nec fallebar: omnis enim ripa praeclaro et ingenti mulierum agmine tegebatur. obstupui. Dii boni! quae forma! quae facies! quis habitus! amare potuisset quisquis eo non praeoccupatum animum attulisset. in loco paulo altiore constiteram, unde in ea, quae gerebantur, intenderem. incredibilis sine offensione concursus erat: vicissimque alacres, pars herbis odoriferis incinctae, reductisque post cubitum manicis, candidas in gurgite manus ac bracchia lavabant, nescio quid blandum peregrino murmure colloquentes. vix nunquam clarius intellexi quod Ciceroni (Cic., Tusc. V, 116) placet, et veteri proverbio dici solet: inter linguas incognitas omnes propemodum surdos ac mutos esse. unum mihi solatium gratissimorum interpretum non deerat. nam et hoc inter cuncta mirabere, coelum illud spiritus Pierios alere. itaque dum miratur Iuvenalis (Iuv., sat. 15, 111), quod “Gallia causidicos docuit facunda Britannos”, miretur itidem ”docta quod argutos aluit Germania vates”. at, ne me auctore fallaris, scito ibi nullum Maronem esse, Nasones plurimos; ut dicas verum fuisse praesagium, quod in fine libri Metamorphoseos multum vel posteritatis gratiae vel ingenia suo fidens ponit. siquidem qua Romana potentia, seu verius, qua Romanum nomen domito orbe se porrigit, plausibiliter nunc faventis populi ore perlegitur. his ego comitibus ubi quid audiendum, seu respondendum incidit, pro lingua et pro auribus usus sum. unum igitur ex eo numero admirans. et ignarus rerum percontatus Vergiliano (Verg., Aen. VI, 318 sq.) illo versiculo: ”quid vult concursus ad amnem, quidve petunt animae?” responsum accepi: pervetustum gentis ritum esse, vulgo persuasum praesertim femineo. omnem totius anni calamitatem imminentem fluviali illius diei ablutione purgari et deinceps laetiora succedere. itaque lustrationem esse annuam inexhausto semper studio cultam colendamque. ad haec ego subridens: “o nimium felices”, inquam, “Rheni accolae, quorum ille miserias purgat: nostras quidem nec Padus umquam valuit purgare nec Tibris. vos vestra mala Britannis, Rheno vectore, transmittitis; nos nostra libenter Afris atque Illyricis mitteremus. sed nobis (ut intelligi datur) pigriora sunt flumina”. commoto risu, sero tandem inde discessimus. proximis aliquot diebus a mane ad vesperam civitatem iisdem ducibus circumivi: haud iniucundum exercitium, non tam ob id, quod ante oculos erat, quam recordatione nostrorum maiorum, qui tam procul a patria monumenta Romanae virtutis tam illustria reliquissent. in primis autem occurrebat Marcus Agrippa coloniae illius auctor, qui licet multa domi, multa foris praeclara construxerit, illam tamen ex omnibus dignam censuit. cui suum nomen imponeret, aedificator ac bellator egregius, dignusque habitus, quem Augustus in generum ex toto orbe deligeret, qualiscumque filiae virum, sed dilectae, sed unicae, sed augustae. vidi tot simul trunca millia sacrarum virginum, et terram generosis dicatam reliquiis, ac degenerum (ut aiunt) cadaverum expultricem. vidi Capitolium, effigiem nostri; nisi quod pro senatu, illic pacis ac belli consilia agitante, hic formosi iuvenes ac puellae mixtim nocturnas laudes Deo concinunt aeterna concordia: ibi rotarum et armorum strepitus ac gemitus captivorum; hic quies et gaudium et iocantium voces; denique illuc bellicus, huc pacificus triumphator ingreditur.

vidi templum urbe media pulcherrimum quamvis inexpletum, quod haud immerito summum vocant. magorum ibi regum corpora ab ortu ad occasum tribus saltibus transvecta, quos aethereum quondam regem ad praesepia vagientem cum muneribus venerates legimus, venerabundus aspexi. parumper hic, pater optime, et pudoris mei metas excessisse videor et plura collegisse, quam necesse erat.

utrumque fateor; sed mihi nil tam necesse est, quam ut imperio tuo paream. inter multa sane, quae abeunti iusseras, hoc fuit extremum: ut de terris, ad quas ibam, et de singulis, quae vidissem audivissemque, perinde te certiorem scripto facerem ac verbo solito, nec calamo parcerem, nec brevitati vel ornatui studerem, neve floridiora decerperem, sed cuncta complecterer. denique Tulliano (Cic., ad Att. I, 12, 4) verbo usus “scribe”, dixisti, “quidquid in buccam venerit!” promisi me facturum; promissum crebris ex itinere litterulis implesse videor. si iussisses loqui de altioribus, temptassem. nunc epistolae officium reor, non ut scribentem nobilitet, sed ut certificet legentem. quodsi omnino videri volumus, ostendamus nos in libris, in epistolis colloquamur.

procedo. ad II. Kalendas Iulias Colonia discessi tanto sole ac pulvere, ut saepe “Alpinas nives ac frigora Rheni” a Vergilio (Verg., Bucol. 10, 47) requirerem. inde Arduennam silvam, scriptorum testimonio pridem mihi cognitam, sed visu atram atque horrificam, transivi solus, et (quod magis admireris) belli tempore. sed incautos, ut aiunt, Deus adiuvat. ac ne longum iter vix equo peractum calamo remetiar, multis ego regionibus ambitis, hodierno die Lugdunum perveni. nobilis et ipsa Romanorum colonia est paululumque vetustior Agrippina. duo hic noti amnes in nostrum mare currentes, Rhodanus Ararisque conveniunt: Sonnam incolae appellant. sed de his nihil amplius: iuncti enim ad te properant, alter cogenti, alter coacto similis, et Avenionem, ubi te nunc ac genus humanum Romanus Pontifex detinet, permixtis vadis abluunt. huc ego cum mane pervenissem, et intranti forte familiaris hic tuus occurrisset, mille eum quaestiunculis (ut mos est peregre redeuntium) aggredior.

ille autem nihil ad reliqua: sed praeclarissimum fratrem tuum, ad quem maxime properabam, sine me Romam petiisse narravit. quo audito. quaerendi veniendique ardor repente deferbuit. hic igitur expectare in animo est. donec et aestas ipsa deferveat. quam hucusque non senseram, et me vegetiorem quies faciat, qui me fessum esse hoc ipso primum loquente perpendi. nulla quidem fatigatio maior quam animi est; quod si reliqui itineris taedium subierit, Rhodanus mihi pro vehiculo erit. interim, ut noris, ubi sum, haec tibi festinante nuntio transcurrere (sic) non piguit. de fratre item tuo, duce olim, nunc (da dolori veniam) desertore meo. nusquam alibi quam apud ipsum conqueri visum est. quam querelam ut sibi quam primum mitti iubeas, oratus facito. et vale nostri memor.

Lugduni, V. Idus Augusti.

In those days… (The Penny Magazine on Cologne)

The fervent admiration with which the Rhine is regarded by Germans is a just tribute to its natural beauties, and still more to the stirring events which are associated with the noble river. The vineyards mirrored on its bosom, and all the varied beauties characteristic of the „scenery of the Rhine,“ would not be half so inspiring if its castled crags and ancient towns were not rich to overflowing in the legends of antique romance. Here the old Roman civilization irradiated the darkness of the wild forests, and the more benevolent influences of the modern civilization were fostered and developed. Few of the ancient cities of Europe can trace their origin so distinctly as Cologne. It was a Roman station, and subsequently a „colonia“ under the name of Colonia Claudia Agrippinensis, from the Emperor Claudius and his wife Agrippina, who was born here while her father, Germanicus, commanded in these parts. Agrippina adorned it with an amphitheatre, temples, aqueducts, &c., the ruins of which may still be traced. No spot on the banks of the Rhine exhibits so many Roman vestiges. A great part of the wall which extends along the river is Roman, and also one of the gates. Some of the streets still bear Latin names. Many busts, sarcophagi, and stones, with the numbers of the legions stationed here, have been dug up, and with other relics are placed in a public museum. It has been doubted whether the Emperor Constantine erected a bridge across the river at this spot. The story is, that it was destroyed in the tenth century by Otho the Great, Emperor of Germany, and that the piers are now occasionally visible. Between Cologne and the opposite bank of the river there is now a bridge, erected in 1822, which rests upon thirty-nine pontoons, and rises and falls with the tide. It is a favourite promenade in fine weather. Vitellius was proclaimed emperor at Cologne. Trajan was here when nominated by the Emperor Nerva as his successor. Several of the Roman emperors resided for some time, and Sylvanus was assassinated, at Cologne. It continued to be the capitol of Lower Rhenish Gaul until the fourth century, when it was sacked by the Franks, who were now harassing the Roman power; but it was retaken. In 460 the ranks once more obtained possession, and kept it. Clovis, their king, was proclaimed here. After a frequent change of masters Cologne was annexed to the German empire, and in 949 was constituted an imperial free city. The Roman municipal constitution might be traced down to the period when Cologne, in 1792, ceased to be a free city. It is now the capital of a Prussian province, and contains about sixty thousand imhabitants.
In the early part of the fourteenth century, Cologne, where the grander part of the Rhine commences, was called the „Rome of the North“. It was then the seat of the greatest wealth and civilization on this side the Alps. Petrarch visited it in 1333, and, writing to his friend Cardinal Colonna, he exclaims, „How glorious is this city!“ and he commends the taste of its inhabitants for literature and the refinements of life. Cologne was at that time the principal town of the great Hanseatic League, which it had joined in 1201, and had grown rich by industry and an extensive commerce. It could muster an armed force of thirty thousand men, and its population amounted to one hundred and fifty thousand souls. Even in the eleventh century the vessels of the Colognese carried Rhenish wines, corn, flour, malt, beer, linen and other German produce to all countries lying on the German Ocean and the Baltic, to England, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Norway, Sweden and Russia, and brought back the productions of those countries. King John granted extraordinary privileges to the merchants of Cologne who traded to England. Whitehall was assigned to them exclusively for the Rhenish trade. They had factories also in Norway and the Netherlands. In those days the Colognese carried matters with a high hand. They obliged all vessels navigating the Rhine to unlade their cargoes at Cologne, whence they were conveyed in its own ships. In 1452 Cologne was formally excluded from the Hanseatic League, having taken the part of England, against which the League had declared war, and it was not until 1474 that it was re-united. While commerce flourished, the arts and sciences were equally vigorous. The University of Cologne was the most famous in Germany. The specimens of architecture, paintings on glass, sculptures, and pictures, which still exist, attest the perfection which the Colognese artists had attained.

(The Penny Magazine, November 1842)