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- Hyperion - 3/43 -

asleep, with her poor little babe on her bosom. But she did not sleep long; for a bright light shone full in her face; and, when she opened her eyes, she saw a pale man, with a lantern, standing right before her. He was almost naked; and there was blood upon his hands and body, and great tears in his beautiful eyes, and his face was like the face of the Saviour on the cross. Not a single word did he say to the poor woman; but looked at her compassionately, and gave her a loaf of bread, and took the little babe in his arms, and kissed it. Then the mother looked up to the great crucifix, but there was no image there; and she shrieked and fell down as if she were dead. And there she was found with her child; and a few days after they both died, and were buried together in one grave. And nobody would have believed her story, if a woman, who lived at the corner, had not gone to the window, when she heard the scream, and seen the figure hang the lantern up in its place, and then set the ladder against the wall, and go up and nailitself to the cross. Since that night it has never moved again. Ach! Herr Je!"

Such was the legend of the Christ of Andernach, as the old woman in spectacles told it to Flemming. It made a painful impression on his sick and morbid soul; and he felt now for the first time in full force, how great is the power of popular superstition.

The post-chaise was now at the door, and Flemming was soon on the road to Coblentz, a city which stands upon the Rhine, at the mouth of the Mosel, opposite Ehrenbreitstein. It is by no means a long drive from Andernach to Coblentz; and the only incident which occurred to enliven the way was the appearance of a fat, red-faced man on horseback, trotting slowly towards Andernach. As they met, the mad little postilion gave him a friendly cut with his whip, and broke out into an exclamation, which showed he was from Münster;

"Jesmariosp! my friend! How is the Man in the Custom-House?"

Now to any candid mind this would seem a fair question enough; but not so thought the red-faced man on horseback; for he waxed exceedingly angry, and replied, as the chaise whirled by;

"The devil take you, and your Westphalian ham, and pumpernickel!"

Flemming called to his servant, and the servant to the postilion, for an explanation of this short dialogue; and the explanation was, that on the belfry of the Kaufhaus in Coblentz, is a huge head, with a brazen helmet and a beard; and whenever the clock strikes, at each stroke of the hammer, this giant's head opens its great jaws and smites its teeth together, as if, like the brazen head of Friar Bacon, it would say; "Time was; Time is; Time is past." This figure is known through all the country round about, as "The Man in the Custom-House"; and, when a friend in the country meets a friend from Coblentz, instead of saying, "How are all the good people in Coblentz?"--he says, "How is the Man in the Custom-House?" Thus the giant has a great partto play in the town; and thus ended the first day of Flemming's Rhine-journey; and the only good deed he had done was to give an alms to a poor beggar woman, who lifted up her trembling hands and exclaimed;

"Thou blessed babe!"


After all, a journey up the Rhine, in the mists and solitude of December, is not so unpleasant as the reader may perhaps imagine. You have the whole road and river to yourself. Nobody is on the wing; hardly a single traveller. The ruins are the same; and the river, and the outlines of the hills; and there are few living figures in the landscape to wake you from your musings, distract your thoughts, and cover you with dust.

Thus, likewise, thought our traveller, as he continued his journey on the morrow. The day is overcast, and the clouds threaten rain or snow. Why does he stop at the little village of Capellen? Because, right above him on the high cliff, the glorious ruin of Stolzenfels is looking at him with itshollow eyes, and beckoning to him with its gigantic finger, as if to say; "Come up hither, and I will tell thee an old tale." Therefore he alights, and goes up the narrow village lane, and up the stone steps, and up the steep pathway, and throws himself into the arms of that ancient ruin, and holds his breath, to hear the quick footsteps of the falling snow, like the footsteps of angels descending upon earth. And that ancient ruin speaks to him with its hollow voice, and says;

"Beware of dreams! Beware of the illusions of fancy! Beware of the solemn deceivings of thy vast desires! Beneath me flows the Rhine, and, like the stream of Time, it flows amid the ruins of the Past. I see myself therein, and I know that I am old. Thou, too, shalt be old. Be wise in season. Like the stream of thy life, runs the stream beneath us. Down from the distant Alps,--out into the wide world, it bursts away, like a youth from the house of his fathers. Broad-breasted and strong, and with earnest endeavours, like manhood, it makes itself a way through these difficultmountain passes. And at length, in its old age, its stops, and its steps are weary and slow, and it sinks into the sand, and, through its grave, passes into the great ocean, which is its eternity. Thus shall it be with thee.

"In ancient times there dwelt within these halls a follower of Jesus of Jerusalem,--an Archbishop in the church of Christ. He gave himself up to dreams; to the illusions of fancy; to the vast desires of the human soul. He sought after the impossible. He sought after the Elixir of Life,--the Philosopher's Stone. The wealth, that should have fed the poor, was melted in his crucibles. Within these walls the Eagle of the clouds sucked the blood of the Red Lion, and received the spiritual Love of the Green Dragon, but alas! was childless. In solitude and utter silence did the disciple of the Hermetic Philosophy toil from day to day, from night to night. From the place where thou standest, he gazed at evening upon hills, and vales, and waters spread beneath him; and saw how the setting sun had changed them allto gold, by an alchymy more cunning than his own. He saw the world beneath his feet; and said in his heart, that he alone was wise. Alas! he read more willingly in the book of Paracelsus, than in the book of Nature; and, believing that `where reason hath experience, faith hath no mind,' would fain have made unto himself a child, not as Nature teaches us, but as the Philosopher taught,--a poor homunculus, in a glass bottle. And he died poor and childless!"

Whether it were worth while to climb the Stolzenfels to hear such a homily as this, some persons may perhaps doubt. But Paul Flemming doubted not. He laid the lesson to heart; and it would have saved him many an hour of sorrow, if he had learned that lesson better, and remembered it longer.

In ancient times, there stood in the citadel of Athens three statues of Minerva. The first was of olive wood, and, according to popular tradition, had fallen from heaven. The second was of bronze, commemorating the victory of Marathon; and the third of gold and ivory,--a great miracle of art, in the age of Pericles. And thus in the citadel of Time stands Man himself. In childhood, shaped of soft and delicate wood, just fallen from heaven; in manhood, a statue of bronze, commemorating struggle and victory; and lastly, in the maturity of age, perfectly shaped in gold and ivory,--a miracle of art!

Flemming had already lived through the oliveage. He was passing into the age of bronze, into his early manhood; and in his hands the flowers of Paradise were changing to the sword and shield.

And this reminds me, that I have not yet described my hero. I will do it now, as he stands looking down on the glorious landscape;--but in few words. Both in person and character he resembled Harold, the Fair-Hair of Norway, who is described, in the old Icelandic Death-Song of Regner Hairy-Breeches, as "the young chief so proud of his flowing locks; he who spent his mornings among the young maidens; he who loved toconverse with the handsome widows." This was an amiable weakness; and it sometimes led him into mischief. Imagination was the ruling power of his mind. His thoughts were twin-born; the thought itself, and its figurative semblance in the outer world. Thus, through the quiet, still waters of his soul each image floated double, "swan and shadow."

These traits of character, a good heart and a poetic imagination, made his life joyous and the world beautiful; till at length Death cut down the sweet, blue flower, that bloomed beside him, and wounded him with that sharp sickle, so that he bowed his head, and would fain have been bound up in the same sheaf with the sweet, blue flower. Then the world seemed to him less beautiful, and life became earnest. It would have been well if he could have forgotten the past; that he might not so mournfully have lived in it, but might have enjoyed and improved the present. But this his heart refused to do; and ever, as he floated upon the great sea of life, he looked down through thetransparent waters, checkered with sunshine and shade, into the vast chambers of the mighty deep, in which his happier days had sunk, and wherein they were lying still visible, like golden sands, and precious stones, and pearls; and, half in despair, half in hope, he grasped downward after them again, and drew back his hand, filled only with seaweed, and dripping with briny tears!--And between him and those golden sands, a radiant image floated, like the spirit in Dante's Paradise, singing "Ave-Maria!" and while it sang, down-sinking, and slowly vanishing away.

The truth is, that in all things he acted more from impulse than from fixed principle; as is the case with most young men. Indeed, his principles hardly had time to take root; for he pulled them all up, every now and then, as children do the flowers they have planted,--to see if they are growing. Yet there was much in him which was good; for underneath the flowers and green-sward of poetry, and the good principles which would have taken root, had he given them time, therelay a strong and healthy soil of common sense,--freshened by living springs of feeling, and enriched by many faded hopes, that had fallen upon it like dead leaves.


"Allez Fuchs! allez lustig!" cried the impatient postilion to his horses, in accents, which, like the wild echo of the Lurley Felsen, came first from one side of the river, and then from the other,--that is to say, in words alternately French and German. The truth is, he was tired of waiting; and when Flemming had at length

Hyperion - 3/43

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