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THE OLD WORLD.
SKETCHES OF GERMAN TRAVEL: NUMBER ONE.
WHEN I engaged, Mr. Editor, to recall to mind the familiar features of certain portions of the old world, in which the days of my youth made double haste to join the past, it appeared, when viewed from afar, a pleasing office. Those scenes will ever recur with the changing seasons; and whether the latter bring joy or sadness, the former still hang the brightest ornaments in the long picture-gallery of memory. But, Sir, to trace these half-effaced outlines, and reproduce the emotions of other years; to transfer, as in a crayon sketch, the characteristics of the past, and to do justice to the charm and beauty of the originals, is, I fear, more than Memory may venture to essay. Here the revivifying finger of Art becomes requisite, and to this I have hardly an amateur's pretension. I have nevertheless long meditated some such an undertaking; and, conscious that many of the graces and beauties, and much of the freshness, withal, of halcyon impressions, have long since escaped me, I hasten to sketch the shadowy objects of remembrance; the flitting forms which reappear to the closed eye, and which, like phantoms, dissolve by day, and seem to dwell in their own Elysium.
GERMANY, that word synonymous with barbarism, not long since, is now so potent a spell, that it may not be uttered without conjuring up a thousand varied and vivid emotions of admiration and curiosity. It enlists the love or the hate, the knowledge or the ignorance, the exultation or the regret, the prejudice or the prepossession, of all. He who abhors the philosophy of the German, because, perhaps, he comprehends it not, will not refuse the meed his erudition calls for; while they who profess contempt for the misnamed sentimentalist, accord unqualified praise to the genius and power of the poet. From this favored land have issued streams which have invigorated the spirit of Europe, and infused new and quickening principles into the veins of humanity. The reformation, gunpowder, and printing; liberty, peace, and letters; these discoveries render mankind ever tributary to the inventive genius and generous spirit of the Teuton. Above all, and in truth among the greatest miracles of human intelligence, towers the glory of having created and inspired with life and wondrous beauty, a literature, of which modern times cannot equal the splendor or the originality. That Columbus should have discovered a new world in an untried region of the globe; that to Herschel's unwearying gaze another planet should have been revealed in the blue waste of heaven; these do not astound us, when we reflect on their simplicity. From like causes, similar effects might have readily been apprehended; nor does this detract from their magnificence. But that in the heart of Europe, among a great and historical nation of erudites, and much within a century, there should have been found a new intellectual world, already arched by a brightly-constellated firmament of intelligence; this is, indeed, most marvellous, and more significant than any other datum in universal psychology.
One of the antagonist principles which a wise Providence seems to have raised against the materializing influences of material progress, the German tongue, with its infinite richness, and its plastic adaptation to every intellectual pursuit, is now indeed in literature, in philosophy, in all truth, and in all victorious speculation, the spiritual locomotive of the day; and the masters who wield and direct it, in imitation of their unrivalled predecessors, are still the championminds of humanity. Why should I mention Goëthe, Schiller, Herder, Klopstock, Wieland, Leping, and Jean Paul, save that they form inseparable links in the great chain which binds Leibnitz and Luther to Blumenbach, Gauss, and Humboldt? — and because the varied branches of mental culture, poetry, science, and philosophy, with their infinite ramifications, seem to constitute so many faculties of the great human soul, in even a greater degree than do a thousand industries, arts, and manufactures, form the bones and sinews of the universal body?
If German learning, German genius, and German education, deserve respect, admiration, and imitation, there are in the German land, its soil, culture, and products, and in German institutions, social and political, as well as in the many beautiful external features of German nature, inexhaustible sources of delight and instruction. On the visages of the people you see contentment upshooting its smiling grass-blade among the furrows of labor and care. A strong nationality, an inheritance of old feudal days, cemented by the tie of resistance to foreign aggression, lends to the general tone of feeling, so often affected by clime and local peculiarity, a patriotic dominante. At the cry of country, the clans are marshalled, and from cottage and city the Landwehr rush forth, asking no other signal. There is, too, one other chord which vibrates in unison, from the Alps to the Baltic; which pervades the masses, affecting all bosoms alike; lulling the laborer to cheerful repose, or arousing the soldiers' whole courage; and this is the musical string. The sentiment of harmony dwells in the German ear, and the national voice is full of melody. The divine strains of Weber, of Mozart, nay, of the great Beethoven, are allied to the verse of Körner, of Schiller, and of Goëthe; and song and entiment, sound with sense, music through numbers, are transfused through the living, and with the reed and lyre handed down to posterity.
Innumerable local traditions, preserved with veneration in the primitive ballad, and recalled to mind by the ruined tower, or mouldering column, serve to entertain the fondness of the people for a father-land so old and so hallowed by association. Dwelling among the scenes of the past, yet alive to the present, and interested in the future, they combine, more than any other nation, action with reflection, reason with enthusiasm; and are, less than any other, moved by the glitter which, in the pursuit of his mutable destiny, misleads the spirit of man. With the great men and deeds of antiquity, they have been early made familiar, by the perusal, in their Roman and Grecian idiom, of the world-poets and historians. They are taught to consider the hero and the philosopher as among their own ancestry; and this feeling enkindles the noblest emulation. To their intellectual dominions, all manner of nations and of tongues are tri
butary. Wherever truth has assumed a new garb of beauty, and the earth or the inhabitant reveal novel and illustrative features; where the plant, the stone, or the brute creation; where languages, traditions, or customs of men, have not yet been registered in the catalogues and repositories of science and of art; thither hastens the German, and wearies not until he return, his bark laden with spoils, with which he forthwith decks the shrine of Minerva. The Andes, the Caucassus, and the African glen; the varied literatures and modes of being of the East, have they not been minutely revealed to his native land, and to the world, by the German voyager and the German erudite? And who would not be proud to claim the Humboldts, the Schlegels, the Van Hammers, as countrymen?
I trust, Sir, you will look with indulgence upon these preliminary remarks. When striving to characterize so broad a field as the great land in which we are about to wander, it became needful that I should retrace many an inscription, and dwell upon the general aspect of nature and of men, before I could be convinced my foot was again to cross the Rhine. Thus, after reaching the point de vue, whence we are desirous of marking some interesting yet distant objects, many others are embraced in the field of vision, and serve to assign its position to the prominent one. The illusion is now complete. It is as if one had gazed upon the rich landscape to be seen from the summit of the cathedral of Strasburg. At your feet, the Rhine divides Baden from Alsace, Germany from France; the land of learning from the land of wit; enthusiasm from heartlessness; religion from impiety; Martin Luther from Francois Marie Arouet de Voltaire.
It was from this eminence, that I first contemplated the favored land. We had hastened from Paris to the capital of Alsatia, on our way to Heidelburg. In Strasburg we lingered two days. The first was consecrated to the cathedral, an inimitably beautiful Gothic monument. Its spire, three hundred and nineteen feet high, is more delicate and graceful than the needle of Cleopatra. The external edifice is embroidered, from top to bottom, with the richest sculpturings; and within, beside paintings and stained windows, you have the mausoleum of Marshal Saxe, which is as famous as the black tombs of the dukes of Lorraine at Nancy.
On the morrow, we made our pilgrimage to the Rhine. The sight of this noble and historic river awakens in the bosom of a stranger, emotions as powerful as those called up by the sacred streams of India. Conquest and invasion are, with vineyards and fertile plains, its mingled associations; and the gray castles which look down so gravely upon the passing steamer, seem scarcely to. have recovered from their surprise at the audacious success of the grande armée-that resistless Colossus, of which Napoleon was the soul. The track of the conqueror is so broad and ineffaceable, in those portions of Germany contiguous to France, that the humble footprints of the voyager must pass unnoticed. Hasten we then, from a land and river of flowing romance, to regions of which the legends are less current, and the scenery less familiar. Toward the north, we shall find many a mountain pass and foaming brook; nature in a wilder garb; the Harz, the silver mine; and to reach these, the road
lies through GÖTTINGEN. We leave behind us a monument, standing like the tomb of Ajax, upon a plain broad as the Troad, reared to the memory of General Dessaix, by the Army of the Rhine.'
HEIDELBERG is the first pause of the tourist, unless Baden-Baden have captured him with its gay seductions. The castle and the university are, with the limpid Neckar and vine-clad mounts, high titles to admiration. To you, Sir, the names of LEONHARD, the mineralogist, and GMELIN, the chemical philosopher, are doubtless well known; and the university exhibits, in addition, a bright array of famous talent; PAULUS, in theology, MITTERMAYER, ZACHARIA, and THIBAUT, in different branches of jurisprudence, TIEDERMAN in anatomy; and JOSEPH MAXIMILIAN CHELIUS, in surgery; these enjoy a European reputation; and this old nursery of learning still maintains its unclouded fame. Should these etchings afford your readers pleasure, we may return to this interesting town. The mind is a pretty independent, because inexpensive, traveller. It relies not for its feuille
de route upon the accuracy of a passport, nor do its motions depend, like the body's, upon the purse. It is unsurpassed in elegance by the chaise de poste, and without effort distances the locomotive.
Riding north from Frankfort, upon the road to Cassel, you enter, after a few hours, an undulating country, which, in the opening autumn, combines in rich proportion the highly cultivated with the highly picturesque. The fertile swales seem alive with the varied harvest hues, amid which play in the sunshine the enlivening colors worn by the busy peasantry. Many women are at work in the fields, which are not portioned off by fences; and the road from Heidelberg to Cassel, is shaded by a double row of noble forest trees.
We passed through GIESSEN, notorious for its university's negative excellence. Here diplomas may be readily obtained, on moderate terms. A story is told of two Englishmen, who, stopping to dine at the hostelry, sent up their servant with the requisite sum, and requested a diploma apiece. The valet speedily returned with the desired documents. In a spirit of fun, the travellers next despatched the domestic for diplomas for their horses. This was too much for the learned body, who coolly replied, that though asses were occasionally admitted to the privileges of the university, horses had been hitherto uniformly excluded!'
There is romantic beauty in the site of the town of MARBURG. Its houses are grouped, nest-like, upon the brow of a steep and apparently inaccessible hill. The university stands well among those of a second rank in Germany. From thence we hastened to Cassel, impatient that a day should yet divide us from the first term of our journey, Göttingen. In Cassel there is much that is peculiar and interesting. The town, built upon the platform of a hill, boasts of a palace, a garrison, and displays symmetry of design and of architecture. The capital of Westphalia, it bears the imprint of Napoleon's finger. He placed Jerome upon the throne of the elector, but the reign was brief. The wonder of Cassel is the Wilhelm's Hoe,' or William's Heights,' about three miles distant, where, upon a hill-side, and overlooking the city and surrounding territory, stands the elector's castle, around which are many striking objects. The gardens of the terrace; the magnificent imitation of a Roman aqueduct in ruins; the large swan
basin, whence, on gala-days, there spouts a jet one hundred and eighty feet high; the artificial cascade, which, on such occasions, feeds the fountain, and a Gothic castle, somewhat higher than the residencepalace, are no mean attractions. The architecture of the old chateau, whilome the abode of an ancient elector, is antique and quaint, like the Canterbury tales of Chaucer. In the interior, a chapel, adorned by the pencil of MENGS, and an armory, filled with incredible mail-coats, javelins, swords, and gauntlets, complete the associations of a pristine day. A colossal statue of Hercules grasping his club, crowns the mountain top, and forms the vertex of a triangle, whereof the stair-ways, bordering either edge of the cascade, are the sides; these respectively extend to the terminations of the palace, which thus serves as a base-line. The landscape, seen from the eye of the demigod, to which you ascend by an internal ladder, is a perfect and lovely picture. The perspective reaches to the Harz mountains, in the midst of which the mystic Brocken rears its cloud-wreathed head.
Were it not that I have too long trespassed upon the patience of your readers, and that they probably experience the desire which urged me, when at Cassel, to make all sail for Göttingen, we might thread our way unconsciously and pleasantly among the alleys and edifices which diversify and adorn these heights. The guides are full of Bonapartean anecdotes one has not heard; and the story of the reigning family is, in its details, an infinitely curious chapter of human nature. The present co-regent, or vice-elector - whose father, as wealthy as he is dissolute, was long since forced to abdicate, and now makes various castles and country seats his changing abode - bought the wife of a Prussian officer for forty thousand rix dollars, and married her. The officer shot himself shortly after, in despair; and the lady sat at one of the palace windows, on the morning of the second day of September, 1835, as we stood beneath, listening to this singular chronicle.
At LANGERSHAUSENBERG, near Cassel, the decayed corpse of a criminal was bound to a wheel, and around the bones, which hung among the spokes, floated a winding sheet of dazzling white, bleached by alternations of rain and sunshine. Upon a spear-blade, at the centre of the wheel, stood the head, bare to the skull; and we learned that this exposure is always customary, after decapitation. The individual had been a shepherd. He had committed seven murders, lying in ambush amid his flock, in lonely places, for the solitary traveller. The last victims of his atrocity were a father with his young son. The boy, seeing his sire attacked, fell on his knees, and implored the brigand's mercy. The prayer touched not his savage heart. But, after slaying the helpless one, conscience, long inured to homicide, awoke within him, and betrayed his guilt. On the scaffold he implored the executioner to bestir himself, for 'he saw the little child again pursuing him!'
From the person who gave us this information, we gleaned numerous particulars of crimes committed in Hesse-Cassel and the neighboring states, and among others, the following. Sundry assassinations had inspired the people with terror. Seven persons were arrested upon suspicion, and imprisoned in the state dungeons of Cassel.