Melville in London

“X X X I last wrote in my journal on the banks of the Rhine – & now after the lapse of a few days, I resume it on the banks of the Thames, in my old chamber that overlooks it, on Saturday the 15th of Dec: `49. – I broke off at Coblentz on Monday night, Dec: 10th. The same night I fell in with a young Englishman at a cigar shop & had a long talk with him. He had been in America, & was related to Cunard of the Steamers. Next morning, Tuesday Dec 11th, I again rambled about the town – saw the artillery-men & infantry exercise on the parade ground. Very amusing indeed. Saw a squadron of drumers. Walked down & up the river, & while waiting for the Cologne boat spent at least two hours standing on a stone peir, at the precise junction of the Rhine & Moselle. At 3 o´clock started for Cologne on a Dusseldorf boat. It was intensely cold. Dined at the table d`hote in the cabin. Fine dinner & wine. Drank Rhenish on the Rhine. Saw Drachenfells & the Seven Mountains, & Rolandseck, & the Isle of Nuns. The old ruins & arch are glorious – but the river Rhine is not the Hudson. In the evening arrived at my old place – Hotel de Cologne. Recognized Drachenfells in a large painting on the wall. Drank a bottle of Steinberger with the landlord, a Rhinelander & a very gentlemanly, well-informed man, learned in wines. At 1/2 past 6 P.M went to the Theatre. Three vaudevilles acted. Audience smoking & drinking & looking on. Stopped in a shop on my way home & made some purchases for presents, & was insidiously cheated in the matter of a breast-pin, as I found out after getting to London, & not before. God forgive the girl – she was not very pretty, either – which makes it the more aggravating.”

Melville in Koblenz

“Monday Dec: 10th 1849. Coblentz. Embarked last night about 9 1/2 PM for Coblentz. But before so doing went out after tea to take a final stroll thro` old Cologne. Upon returning to the hotel, found a large party assembled, filling up all the tables in the Dining Saloon. Every man had his bottle of Rhenish, and his cigar. It was a curious scene. I took the tall spires of glasses for castles & towers, and fancied the Rhine flowed between. I drank a bottle of Rudenshimer (?) (Anm: oder Rusheshiemer?). When the boat pushed off it was very dark, & I made my way into the 2d cabin. There I encountered a German, who was just from St: Louis in Missouri. I had a talk with him. From 9 1/2 P.M. till 5. A.M., I laid down & got up, shivering by turns of the cold. Thrice I went on deck, & found the boat gliding between the tall black cliffs & crags. – A grand sight. At last arrived at Coblentz in the dark, & got into a bed at the “Giant Hoff” near the quay. At ten o`clock in the morning descended to breakfast, & after that took a valet de place & crossed the Bridge of Boats to the famous Quebec fortress of Ehrbrincedstein. A magnificient object, truly. The view from the summit is superb. Far away winds the Rhine between its castellated mountains. Crossed the river again, & walked about the town – entering the curious old churches – half Gothic, half Italian – and crossed the Moselle at the stone bridge – near where Prince Metternich was born. Singular that he was born so near the great fortress of Germany – Still more curious that the finest wine of all the Rhine, is grown right under the guns of Erhbreistein. At one´o´clock dined at “The Giant” at the table d`hote. There were some six or eight English present, two or three ladies & many German officers. The dinner was very similar to the dinner at the Hotel de Cologne yesterday. After dinner, walked out to the lower walls & into the country along the battlements. The town is walled entirely. At dinner I drank nothing but Moselle wine – thus keeping the counsel of the “Governor of Coney Island” whose maxim it is, “to drink the wine of the country in which you may be travelling.” Thus at Cologne on the banks of the Rhine, & looking at the river thro` the window opposite me – what could I imbibe but Rhenish? And now, at Coblentz – at the precise junction of the Moselle – what regale myself with but Moselle? – The wine is blueish – at least tinged with blue – and seems a part of the river after which it is called. At dusk I found myself standing in the silence at the point where the two storied old rivers meet. Opposite was the frowning fortress – & some 4000 miles was America & Lizzie. – Tomorrow I am homeward-bound! Hurrah & three cheers!”

Melville in Köln

“I intended taking the boat at 10 1/4 in the morning, & so slept sweetly dreaming of the Rhine.

Sunday Dec 9th 1849 Cologne Sallied out before breakfast, and found my way to the famous cathedral, where the everlasting “crane” stands on the tower. While inside was accosted by a polite worthy who was very civil pointing out the “curios”. He proved a “valet de place”. He tormented me home to the Hotel & got a franc out of me. Upon going to the Steamer Office I learnt that no boat would leave that morning. So I had to spend the day in Cologne. But it was not altogether unpleasant for me so to do. In this antiquated gable-ended old town – full of Middle-Age, Charlemaigne associations, — where Rubens was born (Anm.: Rheinsein sah Rubens Geburtshaus in Siegen, aber dieser Rubens hier ist ja nicht näher spezifiziert) & Mary de Medici died – there is much to interest a pondering man like me. — But now to tell how at last I found that I had not put up at the “Hotel de Cologne”, but at the “Hotel de Rhin” – where my bill for a bed, a tea, & a breakfast amounted to some 2 Dollars, in their unknowable German currency. – Having learnt about the Steamer, I went to the veritable Hotel de Cologne, (on the river) & there engaged the services of a valet de place to show me the sights of the town for 2 Francs. We went to the Cathedral, during service – saw the tomb of the Three Kings of Cologne – their skulls. The choir of the church is splendid. The structure itself is one of the most singular in the world. One transept is nearly complete – in new stone, and strangly contrasts with the ruinous condition of the vast unfinished tower on the one side. From the Cathedral we went to the Jesuit`s Church, where service was being performed. Thence to the Museum & saw some odd old paintings; & one splendid one (a sinking ship – with the Captain at the mast-head – defying his foe) by Schefferen (?). Thence, to St Peter`s Church, & saw the celebrated Descend from the Cross by Rubens (Anm.: nuja, offenbar doch näher spezifiziert; Doppelgeburt?). Paid 2 Francs to see the original picture turned round by the Sacristan. Thence home. Went into a book store & purchased some books (Views & Panorama of the Rhine) & then to the Hotel. At one` o`clock dinner was served (Table d`hote). A regular German dinner & a good one, “I tell you”. Innumerable courses – & an apple-pudding (Anm.: Rievkooche met Äppelschlot?) was served between the courses of meat & poultry. I drank some yellow Rhenish wine which was capital, looking out on the storied Rhine as i dined. After dinner sallied out, roamed about the town, going into churches, buying cigar of pretty cigar girls, & stopping people in the streets to light my cigar. I drank the very vital spirit & soul of old Charlemagne, as i turned the quaint old corners of this quaint old town. Crossed the bridge of boats, & visited the fortifications on the thither side. At dusk stopped at a beer shop – took a glass of black ale in a comical flagon of glass. Then home. And here I am writing up my journal for the last two days. At nine o`clock (three hours from now) I start for Coblentz – 60 miles from hence. – I feel homesick to be sure – being all alone with not a soul to talk to – but then the Rhine, is before me, & I must on. The sky is overcast, but it harmonizes with the spirit of the place.”

Rheinszene am Housatonic

Der Rhein in der Weltliteratur. Herman Melville: Israel Potter – 50 Years of Exile. (Hinweis: Roland Bergère.)
„With what rapture you behold, hovering over some vast hollow of the hills, or slowly drifting at an immense height over the far sunken Housatonic valley, some lordly eagle, who in unshared exaltation looks down equally upon plain and mountain. Or you behold a hawk sallying from some crag, like a Rhenish baron of old from his pinnacled castle, and darting down towards the river from his prey.“