Our grief is purely selfish

That evening came on with a still and tranquil beauty, and as the sun hastened to its close they launched their boat for an hour or two’s excursion upon the Rhine. Gertrude was in that happy mood when the quiet of nature is enjoyed like a bath for the soul, and the presence of him she so idolized deepened that stillness into a more delicious and subduing calm. Little did she dream as the boat glided over the water, and the towers of Cologne rose in the blue air of evening, how few were those hours that divided her from the tomb! But, in looking back to the life of one we have loved, how dear is the thought that the latter days were the days of light, that the cloud never chilled the beauty of the setting sun, and that if the years of existence were brief, all that existence has most tender, most sacred, was crowded into that space! Nothing dark, then, or bitter, rests with our remembrance of the lost: we are the mourners, but pity is not for the mourned, – our grief is purely selfish; when we turn to its object, the hues of happiness are round it, and that very love which is the parent of our woe was the consolation, the triumph, of the departed!

The majestic Rhine was calm as a lake; the splashing of the oar only broke the stillness, and after a long pause in their conversation, Gertrude, putting her hand on Trevylyan’s arm, reminded him of a promised story: for he too had moods of abstraction, from which, in her turn, she loved to lure him; and his voice to her had become a sort of want.

“Let it be,” said she, “a tale suited to the hour; no fierce tradition, – nay, no grotesque fable, but of the tenderer dye of superstition. Let it be of love, of woman’s love, – of the love that defies the grave: for surely even after death it lives; and heaven would scarcely be heaven if memory were banished from its blessings.”

“I recollect,” said Trevylyan, after a slight pause, “a short German legend, the simplicity of which touched me much when I heard it; but,” added he, with a slight smile, “so much more faithful appears in the legend the love of the woman than that of the man, that I at least ought scarcely to recite it.”

“Nay,” said Gertrude, tenderly, “the fault of the inconstant only heightens our gratitude to the faithful.”

(Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Pilgrims Of The Rhine, Kapitel VII: Köln, London 1834)

But in Holland activity destroys, in Germany indolence nourishes, romance

“Our travellers arrived at Rotterdam on a bright and sunny day. There is a cheerfulness about the operations of Commerce, – a life, a bustle, an action which always exhilarate the spirits at the first glance. Afterwards they fatigue us; we get too soon behind the scenes, and find the base and troublous passions which move the puppets and conduct the drama.

But Gertrude, in whom ill health had not destroyed the vividness of impression that belongs to the inexperienced, was delighted at the cheeriness of all around her. As she leaned lightly on Trevylyan’s arm, he listened with a forgetful joy to her questions and exclamations at the stir and liveliness of a city from which was to commence their pilgrimage along the Rhine. And indeed the scene was rife with the spirit of that people at once so active and so patient, so daring on the sea, so cautious on the land. Industry was visible everywhere; the vessels in the harbour, the crowded boat putting off to land, the throng on the quay, – all looked bustling and spoke of commerce. The city itself, on which the skies shone fairly through light and fleecy clouds, wore a cheerful aspect. The church of St. Lawrence rising above the clean, neat houses, and on one side trees thickly grouped, gayly contrasted at once the waters and the city.

“I like this place,” said Gertrude’s father, quietly; “it has an air of comfort.”

“And an absence of grandeur,” said Trevylyan.

“A commercial people are one great middle-class in their habits and train of mind,” replied Vane; “and grandeur belongs to the extremes, an impoverished population and a wealthy despot.”

They went to see the statue of Erasmus, and the house in which he was born. Vane had a certain admiration for Erasmus which his companions did not share; he liked the quiet irony of the sage, and his knowledge of the world; and, besides, Vane was at that time of life when philosophers become objects of interest. At first they are teachers; secondly, friends; and it is only a few who arrive at the third stage, and find them deceivers. The Dutch are a singular people. Their literature is neglected, but it has some of the German vein in its strata, – the patience, the learning, the homely delineation, and even some traces of the mixture of the humorous and the terrible which form that genius for the grotesque so especially German – you find this in their legends and ghost-stories. But in Holland activity destroys, in Germany indolence nourishes, romance.”

(Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Pilgrims Of The Rhine, Kapitel V: Rotterdam, London 1834)