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- Hyperion - 6/43 -


hills, the dim vapors were rolling across the windows of the ruined castle, like the fiery smoke of a great conflagration. It seemed to him an image of the rising of the sun of Truth on a benighted world; its light streamed through the ruins of centuries; and, down in the valley of Time, the cross on the Christian church caught its rays, though the priests were singing in mist and darkness below.

In the warm breakfast-parlour he found the Baron, waiting for him. He was lying upon a sofa, in morning gown and purple-velvet slippers, both with flowers upon them. He had a guitar in his hand, and a pipe in his mouth, at the same time smoking, playing, and humming his favorite song from Goethe;

"The water rushed, the water swelled,

A fisher sat thereby."

Flemming could hardly refrain from laughing at the sight of his friend; and told him it reminded him of a street-musician he once saw in Aix-la-Chapelle, who was playing upon six instruments at once; having a helmet with bells on his head, a Pan's-reed in his cravat, a fiddle in his hand, a triangle on his knee, cymbals on his heels, and on his back a bass-drum, which he played with his elbows. To tell the truth, the Baron of Hohenfels was rather a miscellaneous youth, rather a universal genius. He pursued all things with eagerness, but for a short time only; music, poetry, painting, pleasure, even the study of the Pandects. Hisfeelings were keenly alive to the enjoyment of life. His great defect was, that he was too much in love with human nature. But by the power of imagination, in him, the bearded goat was changed to a bright Capricornus:--no longer an animal on earth, but a constellation in heaven. An easy and indolent disposition made him gentle and childlike in his manners; and, in short, the beauty of his character, like that of the precious opal, was owing to a defect in its organization. His person was tall and slightly built; his hair light; and his eyes blue, and as beautiful as those of a girl. In the tones of his voice, there was something indescribably gentle and winning; and he spoke the German language, with the soft, musical accent of his native province of Curland. In his manners, if he had not `Antinous' easy sway,' he had at least an easy sway of his own. Such, in few words, was the bosom friend of Flemming.

"And what do you think of Heidelberg and the old castle up there?" said he, as they seated themselves at the breakfast-table.

"Last night the town seemed very long to me," replied Flemming; "and as to the castle, I have as yet had but a glimpse of it through the mist. They tell me there is nothing finer in its way, excepting the Alhambra of Granada; and no doubt I shall find it so. Only I wish the stone were gray and not red. But, red or gray, I foresee that I shall waste many a long hour in its desolate halls. Pray, does anybody live up there now-a-days?"

"Nobody," answered the Baron, "but the man, who shows the Heidelberg Ton, and Monsieur Charles de Grainberg, a Frenchman, who has been there sketching ever since the year eighteen-hundred and ten. He has, moreover, written a super-magnificent description of the ruin, in which he says, that during the day only birds of prey disturb it with their piercing cries, and at night, screech-owls, and other fallow deer. These are his own words. You must buy his book and his sketches."

"Yes, the quotation and the tone of your voice will certainly persuade me so to do."

"Take his or none, my friend, for you will find no others. And seriously, his sketches are very good. There is one on the wall there, which is beautiful, save and except that straddle-bug figure among the bushes in the corner."

"But is there no ghost, no haunted chamber in the old castle?" asked Flemming, after casting a hasty glance at the picture.

"Oh, certainly," replied the Baron; "there are two. There is the ghost of the Virgin Mary in Ruprecht's Tower, and the Devil in the Dungeon."

"Ha! that is grand!" exclaimed Flemming, with evident delight. "Tell me the whole story, quickly! I am as curious as a child."

"It is a tale of the times of Louis the Debonnaire," said the Baron, with a smile; "a mouldy tradition of a credulous age. His brother Frederick lived here in the castle with him, and had a flirtation with Leonore von Luzelstein, a lady of the court, whom he afterwards despised, and was consequently most cordially hated by her. Frompolitical motives he was equally hateful to certain petty German tyrants, who, in order to effect his ruin, accused him of heresy. But his brother Louis would not deliver him up to their fury, and they resolved to effect by stratagem, what they could not by intrigue. Accordingly, Leonore von Luzelstein, disguised as the Virgin Mary, and the father confessor of the Elector, in the costume of Satan, made their appearance in the Elector's bed-chamber at midnight, and frightened him so horribly, that he consented to deliver up his brother into the hands of two Black Knights, who pretended to be ambassadors from the Vehm-Gericht. They proceeded together to Frederick's chamber; where luckily old Gemmingen, a brave soldier, kept guard behind the arras. The monk went foremost in his Satanic garb; but, no sooner had he set foot in the prince's bed-chamber, than the brave Gemmingen drew his sword, and said quaintly, `Die, wretch!' and so he died. The rest took to their heels, and were heard of no more. And now the souls of Leonore and the monk haunt the scene of their midnight crime. You will find the story in Grainberg's book, worked up with a kind of red-morocco and burnt-cork sublimity, and great melo-dramatic clanking of chains, and hooting of owls, and other fallow deer!"

"After breakfast," said Flemming, "we will go up to the castle. I must get acquainted with this mirror of owls, this modern Till Eulenspiegel. See what a glorious morning we have! It is truly a wondrous winter! what summer sunshine; what soft Venetian fogs! How the wanton, treacherous air coquets with the old gray-beard trees! Such weather makes the grass and our beards grow apace! But we have an old saying in English, that winter never rots in the sky. So he will come down at last in his old-fashioned, mealy coat. We shall have snow in spring; and the blossoms will be all snow-flakes. And afterwards a summer, which will be no summer, but, as Jean Paul says, only a winter painted green. Is it not so?"

"Unless I am much deceived in the climate of Heidelberg," replied the Baron, "we shall not have to wait long for snow. We have sudden changes here, and I should not marvel much if it snowed before night."

"The greater reason for making good use of the morning sunshine, then. Let us hasten to the castle, after which my heart yearns."

CHAPTER VII. LIVES OF SCHOLARS.

The forebodings of the Baron proved true. In the afternoon the weather changed. The western wind began to blow, and its breath drew a cloud-veil over the face of heaven, as a breath does over the human face in a mirror. Soon the snow began to fall. Athwart the distant landscape it swept like a white mist. The storm-wind came from the Alsatian hills, and struck the dense clouds aslant through the air. And ever faster fell the snow, a roaring torrent from those mountainous clouds. The setting sun glared wildly from the summit of the hills, and sank like a burning ship at sea, wrecked in the tempest. Thus the evening set in; and winter stood at the gate wagging his white and shaggy beard, like an old harper, chanting an old rhyme:--"How cold it is! how cold it is!"

"I like such a storm as this," said Flemming, who stood at the window, looking out into the tempest and the gathering darkness. "The silent falling of snow is to me one of the most solemn things in nature. The fall of autumnal leaves does not so much affect me. But the driving storm is grand. It startles me; it awakens me. It is wild and woful, like my own soul. I cannot help thinking of the sea; how the waves run and toss their arms about,--and the wind plays on those great harps, made by the shrouds and masts of ships. Winter is here in earnest! Whew! How the old churl whistles and threshes the snow! Sleet and rain are falling too. Already the trees are bearded with icicles; and the two broad branches of yonder pine look like the white mustache of some old German Baron."

"And to-morrow it will look more wintry still," said his friend. "We shall wake up and find that the frost-spirit has been at work all night building Gothic Cathedrals on our windows, just as the devil built the Cathedral of Cologne. Sodraw the curtains, and come sit here by the warm fire."

"And now," said Flemming, having done as his friend desired, "tell me something of Heidelberg and its University. I suppose we shall lead about as solitary and studious a life here as we did of yore in little Göttingen, with nothing to amuse us, save our own day-dreams."

"Pretty much so," replied the Baron; "which cannot fail to please you, since you are in pursuit of tranquillity. As to the University, it is, as you know, one of the oldest in Germany. It was founded in the fourteenth century by the Count Palatine Ruprecht, and had in the first year more than five hundred students, all busily committing to memory, after the old scholastic wise, the rules of grammar versified by Alexander de Villa Dei, and the extracts made by Peter the Spaniard from Michel Psellus's Synopsis of Aristotle's Organon, and the Categories, with Porphory's Commentaries. Truly, I do not much wonder, that Eregina Scotus should have been put to death byhis scholars with their penknives. They must have been pushed to the very verge of despair."

"What a strange picture a University presents to the imagination. The lives of scholars in their cloistered stillness;--literary men of retired habits, and Professors who study sixteen hours a day, and never see the world but on a Sunday. Nature has, no doubt, for some wise purpose, placed in their hearts this love of literary labor and seclusion. Otherwise, who would feed the undying lamp of thought? But for such men as these, a blast of wind through the chinks and crannies of this old world, or the flapping of a conqueror's banner, would blow it out forever. The light of the soul is easily extinguished. And whenever I reflect upon these things I become aware of the great importance, in a nation's history, of the individual fame of scholars and literary men. I fear, that it is far greater than the world is willing to acknowledge; or, perhaps I should say, than the world has thought of acknowledging. Blot out from England's history the names of Chaucer, Shakspere, Spenser, and


Hyperion - 6/43

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