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)

Switzerland is full of these wild tales

THE first view one gets of the Rhine in leaving Switzerland from the east is on his way from Zurich to Basle. Here, also, he takes his farewell look of the Alps. From the top of the Botzberg the whole range of the Bernese Alps rises on the view. Amid the scenes in which he has moved since he left their presence, the traveller almost forgot their existence, and as they here rise again on his vision, they bring back a world of associations on his heart. There they stand leaning against the distant sky, like the forms of friends he has left forever. Such were my feelings as I sat down by the road-side, under as bright a sky as ever bent over the vineyards of Italy, and looked off upon those bold peaks which had become to me objects of affection. A few days only had elasped since I was amid their terror and their beauty. I had seen the moonbeams glancing on their glaciers at midnight, and heard the music of their torrents lifting up their voices from the awful abysses. I had seen the avalanche bound from their precipices, and rush, smoking and thundering, into the gulfs below—and been wrapt in their storms and clouds. I had toiled and struggled through their snow drifts and stood enraptured on their green pasturages, while the music of bells, the bleating of flocks, and the clear tones of the Alp-horn made it seem like a dreamland to me. A mere dwarf in comparison, I had moved and mused amid those terrific forms. Now mellowed and subdued by distance, the vast, white, irregular mass, lay like a monster dreaming in the blue mist. Clouds resting below the summit slept here and there along the range, and all was silent and beautiful. I love nature always, but especially in these her grander and nobler aspects. The Alps had lain along the horizon of my imagination from childhood up. The desire of years had at length been fulfilled, and I had wandered amid the avalanches and glaciers and snow-fields and cottages of the Oberland, and now I was taking my last look. It was with feelings of profound melancholy I turned away from St. Peters and the Duomo of Milan, feeling I should see their magnificent proportions no more. But it was with still sadder feelings I gazed my farewell on the glorious Alps.
On this route, within half a mile of Brugg, is a lunatic asylum, once the Abbey of Koenigsfelden, (King’s field,) which the guide book informs you was founded in 1310, by Empress Elizabeth, and Agnes, Queen of Hungary, on the spot where the Emperor Albert, the husband of the former and father of the latter, was assassinated. Leaving his suite on the opposite bank, he had crossed the river Reuss at this point, with only the four conspirators accompanying him. The principal one, John of Swabia, was the nephew of Albert, and was incited to this deed from being kept out of his paternal inheritance by his uncle. He struck first, and sent his lance through the Emperor’s throat. Bolm then pierced him through and through with his sword, while Walter von Eschenbach cleaved his skull in twain with a felling stroke. Wart, the fourth conspirator, took no part in the murder, and yet, by a singular providence, was the only one that was ever caught and executed for the deed. The others escaped, although the King’s attendants were in sight. Indeed the latter was so alarmed they took to flight, leaving their master to die alone, sustained and cheered only by a poor peasant girl, who held the royal dying head upon her bosom.

“Alone she sate: from hill and wood low sunk the mournful sun;
Fast gushed the fount of noble blood; treason its worst had done.
With her long hair she vainly pressed the wounds to staunch their tide:
Unknown, on that meek humble breast imperial Albert died.”

On the friends and families of these murderers the children of Albert wreaked a most bloody vengeance. The remotest relative was hunted down and slain, and every friend offered up as a victim to revenge, till one thousand is supposed to have fallen. Queen Agnes was accustomed to witness the executions, and seemed actuated by the spirit of a fiend while the horrid butchery was going on. On one occasion she saw sixty-three, one after another slain, and in the midst of the bloody spectacle exclaimed, “Now I bathe in May-dew.” This convent of Koenigsfelden was en dowed with the confiscated property of these murdered men, and here she ended her days. But her religious seclusion, prayers and almsgiving were powerless to wipe the blood from her conscience. The ghosts of her murdered and innocent victims rose up before her guilty spirit, and frightened peace from her bosom. Revenge had been gratified, but she forgot that after it has been glutted with victims, it always turns round and gnaws at the heart which gave it birth. When she came to die, and the vision of that terrible and just tribunal that awaited her passed before her trembling spirit, she sent for a priest to give her absolution. “Woman,” he replied, “God is not to be served with bloody hands, nor by the slaughter of innocent persons, nor by convents built with the plunder of widows and orphans,—but by mercy and forgiveness of injuries.” Switzerland is full of these wild tales. They meet you at every turn ; and you often start to be told you are standing on the grave of a murderer.

Basle is the last town in Switzerland standing on the Rhine at the head of navigation. It contains a little over 21,000 inhabitants, and is well worth a longer stay than the thousands of travellers who yearly pass through it ever give it. It was once one of the strictest of the Swiss cities in its sumptuary laws. Every person on the Sabbath, who went to church, was compelled to dress in black; no carriage could enter the town after ten at night, and the luxury of a footman was forbidden. A set of officers called Unzichterherrn decided the number of dishes and the wines to be used at a dinner party, and also the cut and quality of all the clothes worn. Until fifty years ago, the time-pieces of this town were an hour in advance of all others in Europe. Tradition states that this curious custom had its origin in the deliverance of the place once from a band of conspirators by the town clock striking one instead of twelve. But the Swiss have a tradition to establish every custom. There is a curious head attached to the clock tower standing on the bridge which connects the two towns. The movement of the pendulum causes a long tongue to protrude, and the eyes to roll about—“making faces,” it is said, “at Little Basle on the opposite side of the river.” Since the Reformation Basle has been the principal seat of Methodism in Switzerland. Formerly the citizens exhibited their piety in odd mottoes and doggrels placed over their doors in the public streets. These, of course, no longer remain, and the people are any thing but religious. Two of these strange mottoes we give from the guide book as a specimen of the pious Methodists of that time :

“Auf Gott ich meine Hoffnung bau
Und wohne in der Alten Sau.”
In God my hope of grace I big,
And dwell within the Ancient Pig.

“Wacht auf ihr Menschen und that Buss
Ich heiss zum goldenen Rinderfuss.”
Wake and repent your sins with grief,
I’m called the golden Shin of Beef.

This was a queer mode of publishing to the traveller one’s religious opinions, but it shows to what ridiculous extremes fanaticism will carry a man. To the credit of the place I will say, however, that even now a carriage arriving at the gates of the town during church time on the Sabbath is compelled to wait there till service is over.
Here one begins to think of the Rhine, “the glorious Rhine.” It goes rushing and foaming through Basle as if in haste to reach the vine-clad shores of Germany. The traveller, as he sees its waters darting onward, imbibes a portion of their anxiety, and is in haste to be borne along on their bosom to the shore below, so rich in associations and so marked in the history of man.

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

Es ist ja schon mancher auf dem Rhein reich worden

Johann Peter Hebels Geschichten aus dem Jahreskalender „Schatzkästlein des Rheinischen Hausfreunds“ dienten zur geistreich pointierten Unterhaltung, aber auch der Volksbildung. Zu lesen sind lehrreiche Nachrichten, lustige Geschichten, abgewandelte Märchen, naturwissenschaftliche Beschreibungen, nicht selten mit kniffligen Rechenaufgaben.
In einigen Episoden, wie auch in der folgenden, spielen Juden die zentrale Rolle.
Hans Maaß, ein Hebel-Kenner beschrieb es einmal so: „Hebels Judenbild ist geprägt von den gesellschaftlichen Vorurteilen seiner Zeit, aber auch von dem aufklärerischen Ideal einer „Verbesserung“ des Menschen durch Erziehung und Bildung sowie durch Verbesserung der sozialen und rechtlichen Verhältnisse. So sind seine Judengeschichten Bilder eines verbesserungswürdigen, aber auch verbesserungsfähigen Menschentyps.“
Der bei Hebel im Original jüdische Hauptdarsteller, wurde von mir kurzer Hand durch einen Schwaben ersetzt. So ist den heutigen Lesern, insbesondere den badischen, ein politisch korrektes und Rassismus freies Schmunzeln ermöglicht.

Einträglicher Rätselhandel
von Johann Peter Hebel 2.0

Von Basel fuhren elf Personen in einem Schiffe den Rhein hinab. Ein Schwabe, der nach Schalampi wollte, bekam die Erlaubnis, sich in einen Winkel zu setzen, und auch mitzufahren, wenn er sich gut aufführen, und dem Schiffer achtzehn Kreuzer Trinkgeld geben wolle. Nun klingelte es zwar, wenn der Schwabe an die Tasche schlug, allein es war doch nur noch ein Zwölfkreuzerstück darin; denn das andere war ein messingner Knopf. Dessen ungeachtet nahm er die Erlaubnis dankbar an. Denn er dachte: „Auf dem Wasser wird sich auch noch etwas erwerben lassen. Es ist ja schon mancher auf dem Rhein reich worden.” Im Anfang und von dem Wirtshaus zum Kopf weg war man sehr gesprächig und lustig, und der Schwabe in seinem Winkel, und mit seinem Zwerchsack an der Achsel, den er ja nicht ablegte, musste viel leiden, wie man’s manchmal diesen Leuten macht und versündigt sich daran. Als sie aber schon weit an Hüningen und an der Schusterinsel vorbei waren, und an Märkt und an dem Isteiner Klotz und St. Veit vorbei, wurde einer nach dem andern stille und gähnten und schauten den langen Rhein hinunter, bis wieder einer anfing: „Maultäschle”, fing er an, „weißt du nichts, daß uns die Zeit vergeht. Deine Vorfahren müssen doch auch auf allerlei gedacht haben im Württembergischen.” – Jetzt, dachte der Schwabe, ist es Zeit das Schäflein zu scheren, und schlug vor, man sollte sich in der Reihe herum allerlei kuriose Fragen vorlegen, und er wolle mit Erlaubnis auch mithalten. Wer sie nicht beantworten kann, soll dem Aufgeber ein Zwölfkreuzerstück bezahlen, wer sie gut beantwortet, soll einen Zwölfer bekommen. Das war der ganzen Gesellschaft recht, und weil sie sich an der Dummheit oder an dem Witz des Schwaben zu belustigen hofften, fragte jeder in den Tag hinein, was ihm einfiel.
So fragte z. B. der erste: „Wie viel weich gesottene Eier konnte der Riese Goliath nüchtern essen?” – Alle sagten, das sei nicht zu erraten und bezahlten ihre Zwölfer. Aber der Schwab sagte: „Eins, denn wer ein Ei gegessen hat, ißt das zweite nimmer nüchtern.” Der Zwölfer war gewonnen.
Der andere dachte: Wart Schwabe, ich will dich aus dem Neuen Testament fragen, so soll mir dein Zwölfer nicht entgehen. „Warum hat der Apostel Paulus den zweiten Brief an die Korinther geschrieben?” Der Schwab sagte: „Er wird nicht bei ihnen gewesen sein, sonst hätt er’s ihnen mündlich sagen können.” Wieder ein Zwölfer.
Als der dritte sah, daß der Schwabe in der Bibel so gut beschlagen sei, fing er’s auf eine andere Art an: „Wer zieht sein Geschäft in die Länge, und wird doch zu rechter Zeit fertig?” Der Schwab sagte: „Der Seiler, wenn er fleißig ist.”
Der vierte. „Wer bekommt noch Geld dazu, und lässt sich dafür bezahlen, wenn er den Leuten etwas weiß macht?” Der Schwab sagte: „Der Bleicher.”
Unterdessen näherte man sich einem Dorf, und einer sagte: „Das ist Bamlach.” Da fragte der fünfte: „In welchem Monat essen die Bamlacher am wenigsten?” Der Schwabe sagte: „Im Hornung, denn der hat nur 28 Tage.” Der sechste sagt: „Es sind zwei leibliche Brüder, und doch ist nur einer davon mein Vetter.” Der Schwab sagte: „Der Vetter ist Eures Vaters Bruder. Euer Vater ist nicht Euer Vetter.”
Ein Fisch schnellte in die Höhe, so fragt der siebente: „Welche Fische haben die Augen am nächsten beisammen?” Der Schwab sagte: „Die kleinsten.”
Der achte fragt: „Wie kann einer zur Sommerzeit im Schatten von Bern nach Basel reiten, wenn auch die Sonne noch so heiß scheint?” Der Schwab sagt: „Wo kein Schatten ist, muss er absteigen und zu Fuße gehn.”
Fragt der neunte: „Wenn einer im Winter von Basel nach Bern reitet, und hat die Handschuhe vergessen, wie muss er’s angreifen, daß es ihn nicht an die Hand friert?” Der Schwab sagt: „Er muss aus der Hand eine Faust machen.”
Fragt der zehnte: „Warum schlüpfet der Küfer in die Fässer?” Der Schwab sagt: „Wenn die Fässer Türen hätten, könnte er aufrecht hineingehen.”
Nun war noch der elfte übrig. Dieser fragte: „Wie können fünf Personen fünf Eier teilen, also daß jeder eins bekomme, und doch eins in der Schüssel bleibe?” Der Schwabe sagte: „Der letzte muss die Schüssel samt dem Ei nehmen, dann kann er es darin liegen lassen, solang er will.”
Jetzt war die Reihe an ihm selber, und nun dachte er erst einen guten Fang zu machen. Mit viel Komplimenten und spitzbübischer Freundlichkeit fragte er: „Wie kann man zwei Forellen in drei Pfannen backen, also daß in jeder Pfanne eine Forelle liege.” Das brachte abermals keiner heraus und einer nach dem andern gab dem Schwaben seinen Zwölfer.

Der Hausfreund hätte das Herz allen seinen Lesern, von Mailand bis nach Kopenhagen die nämliche Frage aufzugeben, und wollte ein hübsches Stück Geld daran verdienen, mehr als am Kalender, der ihm nicht viel einträgt. Denn als die elfe verlangten, er sollte ihnen für ihr Geld das Rätsel auch auflösen, wand er sich lange bedenklich hin und her, zuckte die Achsel, drehte die Augen. „Ich bin ein armer Schwab”, sagte er endlich. Die andern sagten: „Was sollen diese Präambeln? Heraus mit dem Rätsel!” – „Nichts für ungut!” – war die Antwort, – „daß ich gar ein armer Schwab bin.” – Endlich nach vielem Zureden, daß er die Auflösung nur heraus sagen sollte, sie wollten ihm nichts daran übel nehmen; griff er in die Tasche, nahm einen von seinen gewonnenen Zwölfern heraus, legte ihn auf das Tischlein, so im Schiffe war, und sagte: „Dass ich’s auch nicht weiß. Hier ist mein Zwölfer!”

Als das die andern hörten, machten sie zwar große Augen, und meinten, so sei’s nicht gewettet. Weil sie aber doch das Lachen selber nicht verbeißen konnten, und waren reiche und gute Leute, und der schwäbische Reisegefährte hatte ihnen von Kleinen Kembs bis nach Schalampi die Zeit verkürzt, so ließen sie es gelten, und der Schwab hat aus dem Schiff getragen – das soll mir ein fleißiger Schüler im Kopf ausrechnen: Wie viel Gulden und Kreuzer hat der Schwab aus dem Schiff getragen? Einen Zwölfer und einen messingnen Knopf hatte er schon. Elf Zwölfer hat er mit Erraten gewonnen, elf mit seinem eigenen Rätsel, einen hat er zurückbezahlt, und dem Schiffer 18 Kreuzer Trinkgeld entrichtet.

(Ein Gastbeitrag von Bruno Haase. rheinsein dankt!)