Nothing can be more stupid than the descent of the Rhine to Mayence

ONE is constantly shown choice relics in passing through Switzerland, as well as in passing over Italy. Some, doubtless, are genuine, but which are so is the trouble. Thus, at Lucerne, in the public archives, I was shown the very sword William
Tell was accustomed to swing before him in battle, and the very cross-bow from which he hurled the bolt into the tyrant’s bosom. Both, however, are apocryphal. I forgot to mention, by the way, that these old Swiss cross-bows are not our Indian bows, but what school-boys call cross-guns. The bow, frequently made of steel, is fastened to a stock, and the arrow is launched along a groove. The bows of many of these are so stiff that it was with difficulty I could make them spring at all with my utmost strength. I might as well have pulled on a bar of iron. The stiffest of them even the strong-limbed mountaineer could not span with his unaided strength, and was compelled to have cog wheels and a small crank attached to the stock, by winding which he was enabled to spring the bow. He thus accumulated tremendous force on the arrow, and when it was dismissed it went with the speed and power of a bullet. At Basle there is a large collection of relics, made by a private gentleman, who has sunk his fortune in it. Among other things are Bonaparte’s robe worked by Josephine, in which he was crowned at Milan, and a neat rose-wood dressing case of the Empress, containing fifty secret drawers.
But not to stop here, we will away down the Rhine. The river is here shallow and bad to navigate, and so I took the railroad to Strasbourg, the lofty spire of whose cathedral rises to view long before the traveller reaches the town. This cathedral
or minster is one of the finest Gothic buildings in Europe, and has the loftiest spire in the world, it being four hundred and seventy-four feet above the pavement. It is formed of stone and yet open like frost-work, and looks from below like a delicate cast iron frame. Yet there it stands and has stood, with the wind whistling through its open-work for centuries. Begun about the time of the Crusades by Erwin of Steinbach, it was continued by his son, and afterwards by his daughter, and after that by others, and was finally finished 424 years after its foundation. I am not going to describe it; but just stand outside, by the west end, and cast your eye over the noble face it presents. Over the solid part of the wall is thrown a graceful net-work of arcades and pillars, formed of stone, yet so delicately cut that it seems a casting fastened on the surface. In the centre is a magnificent circular window, like a huge eye, only it is fifty feet across, while the body of the building itself towers away 230 feet above you, or nearly as high as Trinity church, steeple and all, will be when finished. And over all is this beautiful netting of stone. When Trinity church is completed, clap another just like it, spire and all, on the top of its spire, and you have some conception of the man ner the Strasbourg Minster lifts its head into the heavens. Among other things in the interior is the famous clock which, till lately, has for a long time remained silent, because no mechanist could be found of sufficient skill to arrange its elaborate interior. It is about the size of a large organ, and tells not only the time of the day, but the changes of the seasons—exhibits the different phases of the moon—the complicated movements of the planets, bringing about in their appointed time the eclipses of the sun and moon, besides playing several tunes and performing various marches by way of pastime. It is a time-keeper, astronomer, almanac, mathematician, and musician at the same time. Every hour a procession appears on its face marching round to the sound of music, with some striking figure in the foreground. We waited to notice one performance, and the chief personage that came out to do us honour was old Father Time, with his scythe over his shoulder, and his head bowed down in grief, looking as if he were striking his last hour. Here lies Oberlin, and about a mile and a half distant, at Waldbach, is his house and library, standing just as he left them.
Here for the first time I noticed the storks sitting quietly on their nests on the tops of the lofty chimnies, or stepping with their long legs and outstretched necks around on their perilous promenade. There is one street in this town called Brand Strasse (Fire Street), from the fact that in 1348 a huge bonfire was made where it runs, to burn the Hebrews, and 2,000 were consumed, for having, as it was declared, poisoned the wells and fountains of the town. Ah! almost all Europe has been one wide Brand Strasse to this unfortunate people.
Strasbourg is the great market for pates de foies gras, made, as it is known, of the livers of geese. These poor creatures are shut up in coops so narrow they cannot turn round in them, and then stuffed twice a day with Indian corn, to enlarge their livers, which have been known to swell till they reached the enormous weight of two pounds and a half. Garlick steeped in water is given them to increase their appetites. This invention is worthy of the French nation, where cooks are great as nobles.
From this place to Mayence, down the Rhine, there is nothing of interest except the old city of Worms, immortal for the part it played in the Reformation. It is now half desolate, but I looked upon it with the profoundest emotions. Luther rose before me with that determined brow and strange, awful eye of his, before which the boldest glance went down. I seemed to behold him as he approached the thronged city. Every step tells on the fate of a world, and on the single will of that single man rests the whole Reformation. But he is firm as truth itself, and in the regular beatings of that mighty heart, and the unfaltering step of that fear less form, the nations read their destiny. The Rhine is lined with battle fields, and mighty chieftains lie along its banks; but there never was the march of an army on its shores, not even when Bonaparte trod there with his strong legions, so sublime and awful as the approach of that single man to Worms. The fate of a nation hung on the tread of one—that of the world on the other. Crowns and thrones were carried by the former—the freedom of mankind by the latter. What is the headlong valour of Bonaparte on the bridge of Lodi, the terrible charge of McDonald at Wagram, or Ney at Waterloo, compared to the steady courage of this fearless man, placing himself single-handed against kings and princes, and facing down the whole visible church of God on earth, with its prisons and torture and death placed before him. But there was a mightier power at work within him than human will or human courage—the upstaying and uplifting spirit of God bearing on the heart with its sweet promise, and nerving it with its divine strength, till it could throb as calmly in the earthquake as in the sunshine. Still his was a bold spirit, daring all and more than man dare do.
The Rhine here is a miserable stream enough, flowing amid low marshy islands, and over a flat country, so that you seem to be moving through a swamp rather than down the most beautiful river of Europe. The boat will now be entangled in a perfect crowd of these mud islands till there seems no way of escape, and now, caught in a current, go dashing straight on to another; and just when the crash is expected, and you are so near you could easily leap ashore, it shoots away like an arrow, and floats on the broad lake-like bosom of the stream. Nothing can be more stupid than the descent of the Rhine to Mayence.
Here I crossed the river and took cars for Frankfort-on-the Maine. Here, also, I first noticed those huge rafts of timber which are brought from the mountains of Germany and floated down to Holland. One was moving down towards the bridge, four hundred feet long, and nearly three hundred wide, sprinkled over with the cabins of the navigators, who, with their families, amounted to between two and three hundred persons. I supposed the spectacle of such immense masses of floating timber was one of the peculiar features of our western world, and I did not expect such a wild and frontier scene here on the Rhine.
There are three classes of cars on the railroad to Frankfort. The first is fitted up for the delicate tastes of noble blood, though free to all. The second is better than any railroad carriage I ever saw at home, and the third very passable. Taking the second as more becoming my rank, I sped off for Frankfort. Of this free town I will say only that the belt of shrubbery and flowers going entirely round it, with carriage drives and promenades between, looks like a beautiful wreath encircling it, and occupying as it does the place of the old line of forts, is a sweet emblem of the change that is yet to come over the cities of the world from the peaceful influence of the gospel. The two things that interested us most were, the house in which Goethe was born, showing by its fine exterior that poverty was not the inheritance of one poet at least,-and the Jews’ street, at one end of which stands the palace of the Rothschilds. The Jews here, as every where, are old clothes men, and the street is black with garments hanging before the dwellings to tempt the purchaser. The Rothschilds have built their palace at the end of the street, but facing one of the most fashionable streets of the town. Thus they stand with one foot among the Jews and the other among Christians. I was struck with one little incident illustrating the tenacity with which a Hebrew clings to his despised people. The mother of the Rothschilds still lives among the old clothes in the midst of her kindred, and steadily refuses to dwell with her children in their magnificent palace. Like Ruth she says to her people, “Where thou goest I will go, and thy God shall be my God.” I love this strong affection for her persecuted race, choosing, as it does, shame and disgrace with them, rather than honour and riches with the world. Even here, in this enlightened town, until eleven years ago, there was an edict in force restricting the number of marriages among the Hebrews to thirteen per year.

(Joel Tyler Headley: The Alps and the Rhine. A Series of Sketches, New York 1845)

Gregorovius am Rheinfall

Hotel Witrig, Dachsen, am Rheinfall, 23. Juli
Am 16. von Luzern nach Basel. Von Olten ab waren die Bahnhöfe wegen des Schützenfests in La Chauxdefonds mit Emblemen und Nationalfahnen verziert. Ich sah auch den deutschen Reichsadler und die deutschen Farben an jeder Station, zur Begrüßung der deutschen Schützen. Eine Inschrift sagte irgendwo: Freiheit den Völkern und ihrem Verkehr, Keine Despoten und Zollschranken mehr. Abends in Basel. Ich ging zum Münster hinauf, welches noch einige Teile romanischen Stils besitzt. Das Museum daselbst bewahrt Andenken an Erasmus, Überreste von Holbeins Totentanz, Fresken aus der ehemaligen Franziskanerkirche. Die Schweizer haben einen besonderen Sinn für diese tristen Gegenstände.
In mehreren Kirchen hier zu Lande sah ich die Heiligen als Gerippe über den Altären sitzen, in prachtvolle goldgestickte Gewänder gehüllt.
Nichts Sehenswertes sonst in dieser grauen, monotonen Stadt.
Am 17. auf der neuen badischen Eisenbahn, über Waldshut, nach dem Rheinfall beim Schloß Lauffen.
Ich wollte weiter nach Konstanz; aber die Einsamkeit der Station Dachsen reizte mich. Ich blieb diese Tage über hier, zehn Minuten vom Rheinfall, eine halbe Stunde von Schaffhausen entfernt. Nach dieser Stadt gehe ich in der Regel morgens. Sie liegt sehr schön am Rhein, in Laub und Weinreben. Die Statue Johannes von Müllers ist oben auf dem Spaziergang aufgestellt, in einer parkartigen Anlage. Sehenswert ist der Munoth, ein Kastell aus Saeculum XVI, ein Rundturm, wie jener der Caecilia Metella und vielleicht nach ihrem Muster gebaut.
Gestern ging ich über den Rhein in das Badische, nach Rheinau, ein altes, von den ersten Welfen gegründetes Benediktinerkloster, welches die Züricher Regierung im vorigen Jahr aufgehoben hat. Nur zehn Mönche sind hier übrig geblieben, Elentiere oder Elendtiere einer aussterbenden Zivilisation.
Die Schweiz bietet im Sommer den Anblick eines ewigen Festes dar; alle Welt ist auf Vergnügungsreisen. Hierher kommen täglich Hunderte, den Rheinfall zu sehen; ganze Schulen reisen; vorgestern hielt eine wandernde Schule, 380 Mädchen und Knaben, ein Fest. Sie singen nicht, sie johlen oder brüllen; sie schmausen nicht, sie verschlingen. Gestern kamen die Züricher Eisenbahnbeamten und Arbeiter, 400 Mann stark, anjubiliert.
Täglich brausen an mein Fenster zehn Bahnzüge heran.
Ich habe hier acht Tage schöner Ruhe verlebt. Acht lyrische Gedichte sind die Frucht davon. Der Rhein, die Rebenberge, die friedlichen Dörfer und ihre freundlichen Menschen, all dies versetzte mein Gemüt in eine dichterische Stimmung.

(Ferdinand Gregorovius: Römische Tagebücher. Auszüge 1852-1889)

Der Donnerstein von Ensisheim (2)

“Weit wichtiger und lehrreicher aber als die seither angeführten Beispiele ist der berühmte Steinfall, der sich am 7. November 1492 zu Ensisheim im Elsaß zutrug. Es fiel daselbst ein keilartig dreieckiger Stein von 260 Pfund nieder, der in der Kirche aufbewahrt wurde; es ist der erste Meteorit, dessen Niederfallen man beobachtete, und von welchem noch jetzt viele Bruchstücke vorhanden sind. Ueber die dabei beobachteten Begebenheiten erhalten wir durch mehrere Urkunden genaue Auskunft. Eine derselben ist die Inschrift auf einer Tafel neben dem Stein und lautet: „A. D. 1492 uff Mittwochen nechst vor Martini den siebenten Tag Novembris geschah ein seltsam Wunderzeichen; denn zwischen der eilften und der zwölfften Stund zu Mittagzeit kam ein großer Donnerklapff und ein lang Getöß, welches man weit und breit hört, und fiel ein Stein von den Lüfften herab bei Ensisheim in ihrem Bann, der wog zweihundert und sechzig Pfund, und war der Klapff anderswo viel größer, dann allhier. Da sahe ihn ein Knab in eim Acker im oberen Feld, so gegen Rhein und Ill zeucht, bei dem Gisgang gelegen, schlagen, der war mit Waitzen gesäet und thet ihm kein Schaden, als daß ein Loch innen würd. Da führten sie ihn hinweg und ward etwa mannich Stück davon geschlagen: das verbot der Landvogt. Also ließ man ihn in die Kirche legen, ihn willens dann zu einem Wunder aufzuhencken und kamen viele Leut allher den Stein zu sehen, auch wurden viel seltsam Reden von dem Stein geredet. Aber die Gelehrten sagten, sie wissen nicht was es wär, denn es wär übernatürlich daß ein solcher Stein sollt von den Lüfften herabschlagen, besonders es wäre ein Wunder Gottes, denn es zuvor nie erhört, gesehen noch geschrieben befunden worden wäre. Da man auch den Stein fand, da lag er bei halb Manns tief in der Erden, welches jedermann dafür hält, daß es Gottes Wille war, daß er gefunden würde. Und hat man den Klapff zu Lucern, zu Pfillingen und sonst an viel Orten so groß gehört, daß die Leut meinten es wären Häuser umgefallen. Darnach uf Montag nach Catharinen gedachten Iahrs, als König Maximilian allhier war, hieß ihre königliche Excellenz den Stein, so jüngst gefallen, ins Schloß tragen, und als man ihn darein brachte, hielt er Excellenz viel Kurzweil mit dem Stein, und da er lange mit den Herren davon redt, sagte er, die von Ensisheim sollten ihn nehmen und in die Kirche heißen aufhencken, auch niemands davon lassen schlagen. Doch nahm er Excellenz zwey Stück davon: das Ein behielt sein Excellenz, das Andere schickte er Herzog Sigmunden von Oesterreich. Und war eine große Sage von dem Stein, also hinck man ihn in den Chor, da er noch henckt. Auch kam eine große Welt den Stein zu sehen.” In einer anderen Inschrift heißt es u. A.:

„Tausend vierhundert neunzig zwei
Hört man allhier ein groß Geschrei
Daß zunächst draußen vor der Stadt
Den siebenten Wintermonat
Ein großer Stein bei hellem Tag
Gefallen mit einem Donnerschlag
An dem Gewicht dritthalb Centner schwer
Von Eisenfarb bringt man ihn her.”

u. s. w. Eine neuere, die beste Inschrift kann als Motto für alle Feuermeteöre dienen und lautet: „De hoc lapide multi multa, omnes aliquid, nemo satis.” In einem Aufruf Kaiser Maximilians d. d. Augsburg 12. Nov. 1503 an alle Unterthanen zu einem Zug wider die Türken werden allerlei Zeichen aufgeführt, durch welche der Himmel die Christenheit heimgesucht und ermahnt habe. Zu diesen gehört auch der Ensisbeimer Stein. Es heißt da: „Anfänglich so hat der Allmächtig Uns als das Obrist Haupt der Christenheit vor etlichen Iahren mit einem harten Stein, ungeverlich zweyer Centner schwehr, der auf einem weiten Feld mit großer Uugestümmigkeit für uns, als wir an unserm Heerzug zu Widerstand der Franzosen mutwillig Fürnemen gewesen sein, gefallen ist; den wir auch in die Kirche in unserer Stadt Insißheim, dabey er sich niedergelassen hat, und da unser Regiment der vordern Lande gehalten wird, haben hencken lassen; ermanet und erfodert daß wir die Christenheit von ihren schweren Sünden und Unordnungen leiten und in ein erkenntliches seliges Leben gegen seine Gnade kehren, und da durch seinen heiligen Glauben mehren, erretten und behalten sollen; hat uns auch das zu einem Exempel, damit wir in demselben also fortfahren, zu der Zeit, als solcher Stein gefallen ist, in unserem Fürnehmen wider die Cron Frankreich Sieg und Glück gegeben” u. s. w.
Noch vielfach finden sich Notizen und Berichte über dieses merkwürdige Ereigniß und geht daraus hervor, daß der Stein bei sonst klarem Himmel aus einer feurigen Wolke unter fürchterlichem Krachen niederfiel, daß er eine dreieckige Form hatte, ursprünglich über 2OO Pfund wog, daß er beim Niederfallen in zwei Stücke zerbrach, und das größte derselben von 171 Pfund an einer Kette in der Kirche zu Ensisheim aufgehängt wurde. Während der Französischen Revolution kam es nach Colmar, viele Stücke wurden davon abgeschlagen, so daß der Rest, welcher sich jetzt wieder an seiner alten Stelle in der Ensisheimer Kirche befindet, nur noch 70 Pfund wiegt. Er ist graubläulich, durch hellere Stellen breccienartig, durch zahlreiche schwarze, glänzende Ablösungsflächen fast schieferig und leicht spaltbar, mit eingesprengten Theilchen von gelblichem Olivin; ferner enthält er etwas Eisenkies und nickelhaltiges Eisen; er ist nicht hart, giebt am Stahl keine Funken und läßt sich leicht zerreiben.”

(Christian Ludwig Otto Buchner, Die Feuermeteore, insbesondere die Meteoriten, historisch und naturwissenschaftlich betrachtet, Gießen 1859)

Frankenstein am Rhein

Die Erinnerung Frankensteins an seine Rheinreise mit Clerval, aus dem Klassiker von Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: “After some days spent in listless indolence, during which I traversed many leagues, I arrived at Strasburgh, where I waited two days for Clerval. He came. Alas, how great was the contrast between us! He was alive to every new scene; joyful when he saw the beauties of the setting sun, and more happy when he beheld it rise, and recommence a new day. He pointed out to me the shifting colours of the landscape, and the appearances of the sky. “This is what it is to live,” he cried, “now I enjoy existence! But you, my dear Frankenstein, wherefore are you desponding and sorrowful!” In truth, I was occupied by gloomy thoughts, and neither saw the descent of the evening star, nor the golden sun-rise reflected in the Rhine.— And you, my friend, would be far more amused with the journal of Clerval, who observed the scenery with an eye of feeling and delight, than in listening to my reflections. I, a miserable wretch, haunted by a curse that shut up every avenue to enjoyment. We had agreed to descend the Rhine in a boat from Strasburgh to Rotterdam, whence we might take shipping for London. During this voyage, we passed by many willowy islands, and saw several beautiful towns. We staid a day at Manheim, and, on the fifth from our departure from Strasburgh, arrived at Mayence. The course of the Rhine below Mayence becomes much more picturesque. The river descends rapidly, and winds between hills, not high, but steep, and of beautiful forms. We saw many ruined castles standing on the edges of precipices, surrounded by black woods, high and inaccessible. This part of the Rhine, indeed, presents a singularly variegated landscape. In one spot you view rugged hills, ruined castles overlooking tremendous precipices, with the dark Rhine rushing beneath ; and, on the sudden turn of a promontory, flourishing vineyards, with green sloping banks, and a meandering river, and populous towns, occupy the scene. We travelled at the time of the vintage, and heard the song of the labourers, as we glided down the stream. Even I, depressed in mind, and my spirits continually agitated by gloomy feelings, even I was pleased. I lay at the bottom of the boat, and, as I gazed on the cloudless blue sky, I seemed to drink in a tranquillity to which I had long been a stranger. And if these were my sensations, who can describe those of Henry? He felt as if he had been transported to Fairyland, and enjoyed a happiness seldom tasted by man. “I have seen,” he said, “the most beautiful scenes of my own country; I have visited the lakes of Lucerne and Uri, where the snowy mountains descend almost perpendicularly to the water, casting black and impenetrable shades, which would cause a gloomy and mournful appearance, were it not for the most verdant islands that relieve the eye by their gay appearance; I have seen this lake agitated by a tempest, when the wind tore up whirlwinds of water, and gave you an idea of what the water-spout must be on the great ocean, and the waves dash with fury the base of the mountain, where the priest and his mistress were overwhelmed by an avelânche and where their dying voices are still said to be heard amid the pauses of the nightly wind; I have seen the mountains of La Valais, and the Pays de Vaud: but this country, Victor, pleases me more than all those wonders. The mountains of Switzerland are more majestic and strange; but there is a charm in the banks of this divine river, that I never before saw equalled. Look at that castle which overhangs yon precipice; and that also on the island, almost concealed amongst the foliage of those lovely trees; and now that group of labourers coming from among their vines; and that village half hid in the recess of the mountain. Oh, surely, the spirit that inhabits and guards this place has a soul more in harmony with man, than those who pile the glacier, or retire to the inaccessible peaks of the mountains of our own country.” Clerval! beloved friend! even now it delights me to record your words, and to dwell on the praise of which you are so eminently deserving. He was a being formed in the “very poetry of nature.” His wild and enthusiastic imagination was chastened by the sensibility of his heart. His soul overflowed with ardent affections, and his friendship was of that devoted and wondrous nature that the worldly-minded teach us to look for only in the imagination. But even human sympathies were not sufficient to satisfy his eager mind. The scenery of external nature, which others regard only with admiration, he loved with ardour. (…) And where does he now exist? Is this gentle and lovely being lost for ever? Has this mind so replete with ideas, imaginations fanciful and magnificent, which formed a world, whose existence depended on the life of its creator; has this mind perished? Does it now only exist in my memory? No, it is not thus; your form so divinely wrought, and beaming with beauty, has decayed, but your spirit still visits and consoles your unhappy friend. (…) Beyond Cologne we descended to the plains of Holland; and we resolved to post the remainder of our way; for the wind was contrary, and the stream of the river was too gentle to aid us. Our journey here lost the interest arising from beautiful scenery; but we arrived in a few days at Rotterdam, whence we proceeded by sea to England.”