The Pilgrims Of The Rhine
E. Bulwer Lytton
Part 5 out of 5
At this moment Gertrude's window opened gently, and he heard accents
steal soothingly upon his ear.
"Is not that your voice, Albert?" said she, softly. "I heard it just as
I lay down to rest, and could not sleep while you were thus exposed to
the damp night air. You do not answer; surely it is your voice: when did
I mistake it for another's?" Mastering with a violent effort his
emotions, Trevylyan answered, with a sort of convulsive gayety,--
"Why come to these shores, dear Gertrude, unless you are honoured with
the chivalry that belongs to them? What wind, what blight, can harm me
while within the circle of your presence; and what sleep can bring me
dreams so dear as the waking thought of you?"
"It is cold," said Gertrude, shivering; "come in, dear Albert, I beseech
you, and I will thank you to-morrow." Gertrude's voice was choked by the
hectic cough, that went like an arrow to Trevylyan's heart; and he felt
that in her anxiety for him she was now exposing her own frame to the
He spoke no more, but hurried within the house; and when the gray light
of morn broke upon his gloomy features, haggard from the want of sleep,
it might have seemed, in that dim eye and fast-sinking cheek, as if the
lovers were not to be divided--even by death itself.
IN WHICH THE READER WILL LEARN HOW THE FAIRIES WERE RECEIVED BY THE
SOVEREIGNS OF THE MINES.--THE COMPLAINT OF THE LAST OF THE FAUNS.--THE
RED HUNTSMAN.--THE STORM.--DEATH.
IN the deep valley of Ehrenthal, the metal kings--the Prince of the
Silver Palaces, the Gnome Monarch of the dull Lead Mine, the President of
the Copper United States--held a court to receive the fairy wanderers
from the island of Nonnewerth.
The prince was there, in a gallant hunting-suit of oak leaves, in honour
to England; and wore a profusion of fairy orders, which had been
instituted from time to time, in honour of the human poets that had
celebrated the spiritual and ethereal tribes. Chief of these, sweet
Dreamer of the "Midsummer Night's Dream," was the badge crystallized from
the dews that rose above the whispering reeds of Avon on the night of thy
birth,--the great epoch of the intellectual world! Nor wert thou, O
beloved Musaeus! nor thou, dim-dreaming Tieck! nor were ye, the wild
imaginer of the bright-haired Undine, and the wayward spirit that invoked
for the gloomy Manfred the Witch of the breathless Alps and the spirits
of earth and air!--nor were ye without the honours of fairy homage! Your
memory may fade from the heart of man, and the spells of new enchanters
may succeed to the charm you once wove over the face of the common world;
but still in the green knolls of the haunted valley and the deep shade of
forests, and the starred palaces of air, ye are honoured by the beings of
your dreams, as demigods and kings! Your graves are tended by invisible
hands, and the places of your birth are hallowed by no perishable
Even as I write,* far away amidst the hills of Scotland, and by the
forest thou hast clothed with immortal verdure, thou, the maker of "the
Harp by lone Glenfillan's spring," art passing from the earth which thou
hast "painted with delight." And such are the chances of mortal fame,
our children's children may raise new idols on the site of thy holy
altar, and cavil where their sires adored; but for thee the mermaid of
the ocean shall wail in her coral caves, and the sprite that lives in the
waterfalls shall mourn! Strange shapes shall hew thy monument in the
recesses of the lonely rocks! ever by moonlight shall the fairies pause
from their roundel when some wild note of their minstrelsy reminds them
of thine own,--ceasing from their revelries, to weep for the silence of
that mighty lyre, which breathed alike a revelation of the mysteries of
spirits and of men!
* It was just at the time the author was finishing this work
that the great master of his art was drawing to the close
of his career.
The King of the Silver Mines sat in a cavern in the valley, through which
the moonlight pierced its way and slept in shadow on the soil shining
with metals wrought into unnumbered shapes; and below him, on a humbler
throne, with a gray beard and downcast eye, sat the aged King of the
Dwarfs that preside over the dull realms of lead, and inspire the verse
of -----, and the prose of -----! And there too a fantastic household
elf was the President of the Copper Republic,--a spirit that loves
economy and the Uses, and smiles sparely on the Beautiful. But, in the
centre of the cave, upon beds of the softest mosses, the untrodden growth
of ages, reclined the fairy visitors, Nymphalin seated by her betrothed.
And round the walls of the cave were dwarf attendants on the sovereigns
of the metals, of a thousand odd shapes and fantastic garments. On the
abrupt ledges of the rocks the bats, charmed to stillness but not sleep,
clustered thickly, watching the scene with fixed and amazed eyes; and one
old gray owl, the favourite of the witch of the valley, sat blinking in a
corner, listening with all her might that she might bring home the
scandal to her mistress.
"And tell me, Prince of the Rhine-Island Fays," said the King of the
Silver Mines, "for thou art a traveller, and a fairy that hath seen much,
how go men's affairs in the upper world? As to ourself, we live here in
a stupid splendour, and only hear the news of the day when our brother of
lead pays a visit to the English printing-press, or the President of
Copper goes to look at his improvements in steam-engines."
"Indeed," replied Fayzenheim, preparing to speak like AEneas in the
Carthaginian court,--"indeed, your Majesty, I know not much that will
interest you in the present aspect of mortal affairs, except that you are
quite as much honoured at this day as when the Roman conqueror bent his
knee to you among the mountains of Taunus; and a vast number of little
round subjects of yours are constantly carried about by the rich, and
pined after with hopeless adoration by the poor. But, begging your
Majesty's pardon, may I ask what has become of your cousin, the King of
the Golden Mines? I know very well that he has no dominion in these
valleys, and do not therefore wonder at his absence from your court this
night; but I see so little of his subjects on earth that I should fear
his empire was well nigh at an end, if I did not recognize everywhere the
most servile homage paid to a power now become almost invisible."
The King of the Silver Mines fetched a deep sigh. "Alas, prince," said
he, "too well do you divine the expiration of my cousin's empire. So
many of his subjects have from time to time gone forth to the world,
pressed into military service and never returning, that his kingdom is
nearly depopulated. And he lives far off in the distant parts of the
earth, in a state of melancholy seclusion; the age of gold has passed,
the age of paper has commenced."
"Paper," said Nymphalin, who was still somewhat of a _precieuse_,--"paper
is a wonderful thing. What pretty books the human people write upon it!"
"Ah! that's what I design to convey," said the silver king. "It is the
age less of paper money than paper government: the Press is the true
bank." The lord treasurer of the English fairies pricked up his ears at
the word "bank;" for he was the Attwood of the fairies: he had a
favourite plan of making money out of bulrushes, and had written four
large bees'-wings full upon the true nature of capital.
While they were thus conversing, a sudden sound as of some rustic and
rude music broke along the air, and closing its wild burden, they heard
the following song:--
THE COMPLAINT OF THE LAST FAUN.
The moon on the Latmos mountain
Her pining vigil keeps;
And ever the silver fountain
In the Dorian valley weeps.
But gone are Endymion's dreams;
And the crystal lymph
Bewails the nymph
Whose beauty sleeked the streams!
Round Arcady's oak its green
The Bromian ivy weaves;
But no more is the satyr seen
Laughing out from the glossy leaves.
Hushed is the Lycian lute,
Still grows the seed
Of the Moenale reed,
But the pipe of Pan is mute!
The leaves in the noon-day quiver;
The vines on the mountains wave;
And Tiber rolls his river
As fresh by the Sylvan's cave.
But my brothers are dead and gone;
And far away
From their graves I stray,
And dream of the past alone!
And the sun of the north is chill;
And keen is the northern gale;
Alas for the Song of the Argive hill;
And the dance in the Cretan vale!
The youth of the earth is o'er,
And its breast is rife
With the teeming life
Of the golden Tribes no more!
My race are more blest than I,
Asleep in their distant bed;
'T were better, be sure, to die
Than to mourn for the buried Dead:
To rove by the stranger streams,
At dusk and dawn
A lonely faun,
The last of the Grecian's dreams.
As the song ended a shadow crossed the moonlight, that lay white and
lustrous before the aperture of the cavern; and Nymphalin, looking up,
beheld a graceful yet grotesque figure standing on the sward without, and
gazing on the group in the cave. It was a shaggy form, with a goat's
legs and ears; but the rest of its body, and the height of the stature,
like a man's. An arch, pleasant, yet malicious smile played about its
lips; and in its hand it held the pastoral pipe of which poets have
sung,--they would find it difficult to sing to it!
"And who art thou?" said Fayzenheim, with the air of a hero.
"I am the last lingering wanderer of the race which the Romans
worshipped; hither I followed their victorious steps, and in these green
hollows have I remained. Sometimes in the still noon, when the leaves of
spring bud upon the whispering woods, I peer forth from my rocky lair,
and startle the peasant with my strange voice and stranger shape. Then
goes he home, and puzzles his thick brain with mopes and fancies, till at
length he imagines me, the creature of the South! one of his northern
demons, and his poets adapt the apparition to their barbarous lines."
"Ho!" quoth the silver king, "surely thou art the origin of the fabled
Satan of the cowled men living whilom in yonder ruins, with its horns and
goatish limbs; and the harmless faun has been made the figuration of the
most implacable of fiends. But why, O wanderer of the South, lingerest
thou in these foreign dells? Why returnest thou not to the bi-forked
hill-top of old Parnassus, or the wastes around the yellow course of the
"My brethren are no more," said the poor faun; "and the very faith that
left us sacred and unharmed is departed. But here all the spirits not of
mortality are still honoured; and I wander, mourning for Silenus, though
amidst the vines that should console me for his loss."
"Thou hast known great beings in thy day," said the leaden king, who
loved the philosophy of a truism (and the history of whose inspirations I
shall one day write).
"Ah, yes," said the faun; "my birth was amidst the freshness of the
world, when the flush of the universal life coloured all things with
divinity; when not a tree but had its Dryad, not a fountain that was
without its Nymph. I sat by the gray throne of Saturn, in his old age,
ere yet he was discrowned (for he was no visionary ideal, but the arch
monarch of the pastoral age), and heard from his lips the history of the
world's birth. But those times are gone forever,--they have left harsh
"It is the age of paper," muttered the lord treasurer, shaking his head.
"What ho, for a dance!" cried Fayzenheim, too royal for moralities, and
he whirled the beautiful Nymphalin into a waltz. Then forth issued the
fairies, and out went the dwarfs. And the faun leaning against an aged
elm, ere yet the midnight waned, the elves danced their charmed round to
the antique minstrelsy of his pipe,--the minstrelsy of the Grecian world!
"Hast thou seen yet, my Nymphalin," said Fayzenheim, in the pauses of the
dance, "the recess of the Hartz, and the red form of its mighty hunter?"
"It is a fearful sight," answered Nymphalin; "but with thee I should not
"Away then!" cried Fayzenheim; "let us away at the first cock-crow, into
those shaggy dells; for there is no need of night to conceal us, and the
unwitnessed blush of morn or the dreary silence of noon is, no less than
the moon's reign, the season for the sports of the superhuman tribes."
Nymphalin, charmed with the proposal, readily assented; and at the last
hour of night, bestriding the starbeams of the many-titled Friga, away
sped the fairy cavalcade to the gloom of the mystic Hartz.
Fain would I relate the manner of their arrival in the thick recesses of
the forest,--how they found the Red Hunter seated on a fallen pine beside
a wide chasm in the earth, with the arching bows of the wizard oak
wreathing above his head as a canopy, and his bow and spear lying idle at
his feet. Fain would I tell of the reception which he deigned to the
fairies, and how he told them of his ancient victories over man; how he
chafed at the gathering invasions of his realm; and how joyously he
gloated of some great convulsion* in the northern States, which, rapt
into moody reveries in those solitary woods, the fierce demon broodingly
foresaw. All these fain would I narrate, but they are not of the Rhine,
and my story will not brook the delay. While thus conversing with the
fiend, noon had crept on, and the sky had become overcast and lowering;
the giant trees waved gustily to and fro, and the low gatherings of the
thunder announced the approaching storm. Then the hunter rose and
stretched his mighty limbs, and seizing his spear, he strode rapidly into
the forest to meet the things of his own tribe that the tempest wakes
from their rugged lair.
* Which has come to pass.--1847.
A sudden recollection broke upon Nymphalin. "Alas, alas!" she cried,
wringing her hands; "what have I done! In journeying hither with thee, I
have forgotten my office. I have neglected my watch over the elements,
and my human charge is at this hour, perhaps, exposed to all the fury of
"Cheer thee, my Nymphalin," said the prince, "we will lay the tempest;"
and he waved his sword and muttered the charms which curb the winds and
roll back the marching thunder: but for once the tempest ceased not at
his spells. And now, as the fairies sped along the troubled air, a pale
and beautiful form met them by the way, and the fairies paused and
trembled; for the power of that Shape could vanquish even them. It was
the form of a Female, with golden hair, crowned with a chaplet of
withered leaves; her bosoms, of an exceeding beauty, lay bare to the
wind, and an infant was clasped between them, hushed into a sleep so
still, that neither the roar of the thunder, nor the livid lightning
flashing from cloud to cloud, could even ruffle, much less arouse, the
slumberer. And the face of the female was unutterably calm and sweet
(though with a something of severe); there was no line nor wrinkle in the
hueless brow; care never wrote its defacing characters upon that
everlasting beauty. It knew no sorrow or change; ghostlike and shadowy
floated on that Shape through the abyss of Time, governing the world with
an unquestioned and noiseless sway. And the children of the green
solitudes of the earth, the lovely fairies of my tale, shuddered as they
gazed and recognized--the form of DEATH,--death vindicated.
"And why," said the beautiful Shape, with a voice soft as the last sighs
of a dying babe,--"why trouble ye the air with spells? Mine is the hour
and the empire, and the storm is the creature of my power. Far yonder to
the west it sweeps over the sea, and the ship ceases to vex the waves; it
smites the forest, and the destined tree, torn from its roots, feels the
winter strip the gladness from its boughs no more! The roar of the
elements is the herald of eternal stillness to their victims; and they
who hear the progress of my power idly shudder at the coming of peace.
And thou, O tender daughter of the fairy kings, why grievest thou at a
mortal's doom? Knowest thou not that sorrow cometh with years, and that
to live is to mourn? Blessed is the flower that, nipped in its early
spring, feels not the blast that one by one scatters its blossoms around
it, and leaves but the barren stem. Blessed are the young whom I clasp
to my breast, and lull into the sleep which the storm cannot break, nor
the morrow arouse to sorrow or to toil. The heart that is stilled in the
bloom of its first emotions, that turns with its last throb to the eye of
love, as yet unlearned in the possibility of change,--has exhausted
already the wine of life, and is saved only from the lees. As the mother
soothes to sleep the wail of her troubled child, I open my arms to the
vexed spirit, and my bosom cradles the unquiet to repose!"
The fairies answered not, for a chill and a fear lay over them, and the
Shape glided on; ever as it passed away through the veiling clouds they
heard its low voice singing amidst the roar of the storm, as the dirge of
the water-sprite over the vessel it hath lured into the whirlpool or the
THURMBERG.--A STORM UPON THE RHINE.--THE RUINS OF RHEINFELS.--PERIL
UNFELT BY LOVE.--THE ECHO OF THE LURLEI-BERG.--ST. GOAR.--KAUB,
GUTENFELS, AND PFALZGRAFENSTEIN.--A CERTAIN VASTNESS OF MIND IN THE FIRST
HERMITS.--THE SCENERY OF THE RHINE TO BACHARACH.
OUR party continued their voyage the next day, which was less bright than
any they had yet experienced. The clouds swept on dull and heavy,
suffering the sun only to break forth at scattered intervals. They wound
round the curving bay which the Rhine forms in that part of its course,
and gazed upon the ruins of Thurmberg, with the rich gardens that skirt
the banks below. The last time Trevylyan had seen those ruins soaring
against the sky, the green foliage at the foot of the rocks, and the
quiet village sequestered beneath, glassing its roofs and solitary tower
upon the wave, it had been with a gay summer troop of light friends, who
had paused on the opposite shore during the heats of noon, and, over wine
and fruits, had mimicked the groups of Boccaccio, and intermingled the
lute, the jest, the momentary love, and the laughing tale.
What a difference now in his thoughts, in the object of the voyage, in
his present companions! The feet of years fall noiseless; we heed, we
note them not, till tracking the same course we passed long since, we are
startled to find how deep the impression they leave behind. To revisit
the scenes of our youth is to commune with the ghost of ourselves.
At this time the clouds gathered rapidly along the heavens, and they were
startled by the first peal of the thunder. Sudden and swift came on the
storm, and Trevylyan trembled as he covered Gertrude's form with the rude
boat-cloaks they had brought with them; the small vessel began to rock
wildly to and fro upon the waters. High above them rose the vast
dismantled ruins of Rheinfels, the lightning darting through its
shattered casements and broken arches, and brightening the gloomy trees
that here and there clothed the rocks, and tossed to the angry wind.
Swift wheeled the water-birds over the river, dipping their plumage in
the white foam, and uttering their discordant screams. A storm upon the
Rhine has a grandeur it is in vain to paint. Its rocks, its foliage, the
feudal ruins that everywhere rise from the lofty heights, speaking in
characters of stern decay of many a former battle against time and
tempest; the broad and rapid course of the legendary river,--all
harmonize with the elementary strife; and you feel that to see the Rhine
only in the sunshine is to be unconscious of its most majestic aspects.
What baronial war had those ruins witnessed! From the rapine of the
lordly tyrant of those battlements rose the first Confederation of the
Rhine,--the great strife between the new time and the old, the town and
the castle, the citizen and the chief. Gray and stern those ruins
breasted the storm,--a type of the antique opinion which once manned them
with armed serfs; and, yet in ruins and decay, appeals from the
victorious freedom it may no longer resist!
Clasped in Trevylyan's guardian arms, and her head pillowed on his
breast, Gertrude felt nothing of the storm save its grandeur; and
Trevylyan's voice whispered cheer and courage to her ear. She answered
by a smile and a sigh, but not of pain. In the convulsions of nature we
forget our own separate existence, our schemes, our projects, our fears;
our dreams vanish back into their cells. One passion only the storm
quells not, and the presence of Love mingles with the voice of the
fiercest storms, as with the whispers of the southern wind. So she felt,
as they were thus drawn close together, and as she strove to smile away
the anxious terror from Trevylyan's gaze, a security, a delight; for
peril is sweet even to the fears of woman, when it impresses upon her yet
more vividly that she is beloved.
"A moment more and we reach the land," murmured Trevylyan.
"I wish it not," answered Gertrude, softly. But ere they got into St.
Goar the rain descended in torrents, and even the thick coverings round
Gertrude's form were not sufficient protection against it. Wet and
dripping she reached the inn; but not then, nor for some days, was she
sensible of the shock her decaying health had received.
The storm lasted but a few hours, and the sun afterwards broke forth so
brightly, and the stream looked so inviting, that they yielded to
Gertrude's earnest wish, and, taking a larger vessel, continued their
course; they passed along the narrow and dangerous defile of the Gewirre,
and the fearful whirlpool of the "Bank;" and on the shore to the left the
enormous rock of Lurlei rose, huge and shapeless, on their gaze. In this
place is a singular echo, and one of the boatmen wound a horn, which
produced an almost supernatural music,--so wild, loud, and oft
reverberated was its sound.
The river now curved along in a narrow and deep channel amongst rugged
steeps, on which the westering sun cast long and uncouth shadows; and
here the hermit, from whose sacred name the town of St. Goar derived its
own, fixed his abode and preached the religion of the Cross. "There was
a certain vastness of mind," said Vane, "in the adoption of utter
solitude, in which the first enthusiasts of our religion indulged. The
remote desert, the solitary rock, the rude dwelling hollowed from the
cave, the eternal commune with their own hearts, with nature, and their
dreams of God,--all make a picture of severe and preterhuman grandeur.
Say what we will of the necessity and charm of social life, there is a
greatness about man when he dispenses with mankind."
"As to that," said Du-----e, shrugging his shoulders, "there was probably
very good wine in the neighbourhood, and the females' eyes about
Oberwesel are singularly blue."
They now approached Oberwesel, another of the once imperial towns, and
behind it beheld the remains of the castle of the illustrious family of
Schomberg, the ancestors of the old hero of the Boyne. A little farther
on, from the opposite shore, the castle of Gutenfels rose above the busy
town of Kaub.
"Another of those scenes," said Trevylyan, "celebrated equally by love
and glory, for the castle's name is derived from that of the beautiful
ladye of an emperor's passion; and below, upon a ridge in the steep, the
great Gustavus issued forth his command to begin battle with the
"It looks peaceful enough now," said Vane, pointing to the craft that lay
along the stream, and the green trees drooping over a curve in the bank.
Beyond, in the middle of the stream itself, stands the lonely castle of
Pfalzgrafenstein, sadly memorable as a prison to the more distinguished
of criminals. How many pining eyes may have turned from those casements
to the vine-clad hills of the free shore! how many indignant hearts have
nursed the deep curses of hate in the dungeons below, and longed for the
wave that dashed against the gray walls to force its way within and set
Here the Rhine seems utterly bounded, shrunk into one of those delusive
lakes into which it so frequently seems to change its course; and as you
proceed, it is as if the waters were silently overflowing their channel
and forcing their way into the clefts of the mountain shore. Passing the
Werth Island on one side and the castle of Stahleck on the other, our
voyagers arrived at Bacharach, which, associating the feudal
recollections with the classic, takes its name from the god of the vine;
and as Du-----e declared with peculiar emphasis, quaffing a large goblet
of the peculiar liquor, "richly deserves the honour!"
THE VOYAGE TO BINGEN.--THE SIMPLE INCIDENTS IN THIS TALE EXCUSED.--THE
SITUATION AND CHARACTER OF GERTRUDE.--THE CONVERSATION OF THE LOVERS IN
THE TEMPEST.--A FACT CONTRADICTED.--THOUGHTS OCCASIONED BY A MADHOUSE
AMONGST THE MOST BEAUTIFUL LANDSCAPES OF THE RHINE.
THE next day they again resumed their voyage, and Gertrude's spirits were
more cheerful than usual. The air seemed to her lighter, and she
breathed with a less painful effort; once more hope entered the breast of
Trevylyan; and, as the vessel bounded on, their conversation was steeped
in no sombre hues. When Gertrude's health permitted, no temper was so
gay, yet so gently gay, as hers; and now the _naive_ sportiveness of her
remarks called a smile to the placid lip of Vane, and smoothed the
anxious front of Trevylyan himself; as for Du-----e, who had much of the
boon companion beneath his professional gravity, he broke out every now
and then into snatches of French songs and drinking glees, which he
declared were the result of the air of Bacharach. Thus conversing, the
ruins of Furstenberg, and the echoing vale of Rheindeibach, glided past
their sail; then the old town of Lorch, on the opposite bank (where the
red wine is said first to have been made), with the green island before
it in the water. Winding round, the stream showed castle upon castle
alike in ruins, and built alike upon scarce accessible steeps. Then came
the chapel of St. Clements and the opposing village of Asmannshausen; the
lofty Rossell, built at the extremest verge of the cliff; and now the
tower of Hatto, celebrated by Southey's ballad, and the ancient town of
Bingen. Here they paused a while from their voyage, with the intention
of visiting more minutely the Rheingau, or valley of the Rhine.
It must occur to every one of my readers, that, in undertaking, as now,
in these passages in the history of Trevylyan, scarcely so much a tale as
an episode in real life, it is very difficult to offer any interest save
of the most simple and unexciting kind. It is true that to Trevylyan
every day, every hour, had its incident; but what are those incidents to
others? A cloud in the sky; a smile from the lip of Gertrude,--these
were to him far more full of events than had been the most varied scenes
of his former adventurous career; but the history of the heart is not
easily translated into language; and the world will not readily pause
from its business to watch the alternations in the cheek of a dying girl.
In the immense sum of human existence what is a single unit? Every sod
on which we tread is the grave of some former being; yet is there
something that softens without enervating the heart in tracing in the
life of another those emotions that all of us have known ourselves. For
who is there that has not, in his progress through life, felt all its
ordinary business arrested, and the varieties of fate commuted into one
chronicle of the affections? Who has not watched over the passing away
of some being, more to him at that epoch than all the world? And this
unit, so trivial to the calculation of others, of what inestimable value
was it not to him? Retracing in another such recollections, shadowed and
mellowed down by time, we feel the wonderful sanctity of human life, we
feel what emotions a single being can awake; what a world of hope may be
buried in a single grave! And thus we keep alive within ourselves the
soft springs of that morality which unites us with our kind, and sheds
over the harsh scenes and turbulent contests of earth the colouring of a
There is often, too, in the time of year in which such thoughts are
presented to us, a certain harmony with the feelings they awaken. As I
write I hear the last sighs of the departing summer, and the sere and
yellow leaf is visible in the green of nature. But when this book goes
forth into the world, the year will have passed through a deeper cycle of
decay; and the first melancholy signs of winter have breathed into the
Universal Mind that sadness which associates itself readily with the
memory of friends, of feelings, that are no more. The seasons, like
ourselves, track their course by something of beauty, or of glory, that
is left behind. As the traveller in the land of Palestine sees tomb
after tomb rise before him, the landmarks of his way, and the only signs
of the holiness of the soil, thus Memory wanders over the most sacred
spots in its various world, and traces them but by the graves of the
It was now that Gertrude began to feel the shock her frame had received
in the storm upon the Rhine. Cold shiverings frequently seized her; her
cough became more hollow, and her form trembled at the slightest breeze.
Vane grew seriously alarmed; he repented that he had yielded to
Gertrude's wish of substituting the Rhine for the Tiber or the Arno; and
would even now have hurried across the Alps to a warmer clime, if
Du-----e had not declared that she could not survive the journey, and
that her sole chance of regaining her strength was rest. Gertrude
herself, however, in the continued delusion of her disease, clung to the
belief of recovery, and still supported the hopes of her father, and
soothed, with secret talk of the future, the anguish of her betrothed.
The reader may remember that in the most touching passage in the ancient
tragedians, the most pathetic part of the most pathetic of human
poets--the pleading speech of Iphigenia, when imploring for her prolonged
life, she impresses you with so soft a picture of its innocence and its
beauty, and in this Gertrude resembled the Greek's creation--that she
felt, on the verge of death, all the flush, the glow, the loveliness of
life. Her youth was filled with hope and many-coloured dreams; she
loved, and the hues of morning slept upon the yet disenchanted earth.
The heavens to her were not as the common sky; the wave had its peculiar
music to her ear, and the rustling leaves a pleasantness that none whose
heart is not bathed in the love and sense of beauty could discern.
Therefore it was, in future years, a thought of deep gratitude to
Trevylyan that she was so little sensible of her danger; that the
landscape caught not the gloom of the grave; and that, in the Greek
phrase, "death found her sleeping amongst flowers."
At the end of a few days, another of those sudden turns, common to her
malady, occurred in Gertrude's health; her youth and her happiness
rallied against the encroaching tyrant, and for the ensuing fortnight she
seemed once more within the bounds of hope. During this time they made
several excursions into the Rheingau, and finished their tour at the
One morning, in these excursions, after threading the wood of Niederwald,
they gained that small and fairy temple, which hanging lightly over the
mountain's brow, commands one of the noblest landscapes of earth. There,
seated side by side, the lovers looked over the beautiful world below;
far to the left lay the happy islets, in the embrace of the Rhine, as it
wound along the low and curving meadows that stretch away towards
Nieder-Ingelheim and Mayence. Glistening in the distance, the opposite
Nah swept by the Mause tower, and the ruins of Klopp, crowning the
ancient Bingen, into the mother tide. There, on either side the town,
were the mountains of St. Roch and Rupert, with some old monastic ruin
saddening in the sun. But nearer, below the temple, contrasting all the
other features of landscape, yawned a dark and rugged gulf, girt by
cragged elms and mouldering towers, the very prototype of the abyss of
time,--black and fathomless amidst ruin and desolation.
"I think sometimes," said Gertrude, "as in scenes like these we sit
together, and rapt from the actual world, see only the enchantment that
distance lends to our view,--I think sometimes what pleasure it will be
hereafter to recall these hours. If ever you should love me less, I need
only whisper to you, 'The Rhine,' and will not all the feelings you have
now for me return?"
"Ah, there will never be occasion to recall my love for you,--it can
"What a strange thing is life!" said Gertrude; "how unconnected, how
desultory seem all its links! Has this sweet pause from trouble, from
the ordinary cares of life--has it anything in common with your past
career, with your future? You will go into the great world; in a few
years hence these moments of leisure and musing will be denied to you.
The action that you love and court is a jealous sphere,--it allows no
wandering, no repose. These moments will then seem to you but as yonder
islands that stud the Rhine,--the stream lingers by them for a moment,
and then hurries on in its rapid course; they vary, but they do not
interrupt the tide."
"You are fanciful, my Gertrude; but your simile might be juster. Rather
let these banks be as our lives, and this river the one thought that
flows eternally by both, blessing each with undying freshness."
Gertrude smiled; and, as Trevylyan's arm encircled her, she sank her
beautiful face upon his bosom, he covered it with his kisses, and she
thought at the moment, that, even had she passed death, that embrace
could have recalled her to life.
They pursued their course to Mayence, partly by land, partly along the
river. One day, as returning from the vine-clad mountains of
Johannisberg, which commands the whole of the Rheingau, the most
beautiful valley in the world, they proceeded by water to the town of
Ellfeld, Gertrude said,--
"There is a thought in your favourite poet which you have often repeated,
and which I cannot think true,--
"'In nature there is nothing melancholy.'
"To me, it seems as if a certain melancholy were inseparable from beauty;
in the sunniest noon there is a sense of solitude and stillness which
pervades the landscape, and even in the flush of life inspires us with a
musing and tender sadness. Why is this?"
"I cannot tell," said Trevylyan, mournfully; "but I allow that it is
"It is as if," continued the romantic Gertrude, "the spirit of the world
spoke to us in the silence, and filled us with a sense of our
mortality,--a whisper from the religion that belongs to nature, and is
ever seeking to unite the earth with the reminiscences of Heaven. Ah,
what without a heaven would be even love!--a perpetual terror of the
separation that must one day come! If," she resumed solemnly, after a
momentary pause, and a shadow settled on her young face, "if it be true,
Albert, that I must leave you soon--"
"It cannot! it cannot!" cried Trevylyan, wildly; "be still, be silent, I
"Look yonder," said Du-----e, breaking seasonably in upon the
conversation of the lovers; "on that hill to the left, what once was an
abbey is now an asylum for the insane. Does it not seem a quiet and
serene abode for the unstrung and erring minds that tenant it? What a
mystery is there in our conformation!--those strange and bewildered
fancies which replace our solid reason, what a moral of our human
weakness do they breathe!"
It does indeed induce a dark and singular train of thought, when, in the
midst of these lovely scenes, we chance upon this lone retreat for those
on whose eyes Nature, perhaps, smiles in vain. _Or is it in vain?_ They
look down upon the broad Rhine, with its tranquil isles: do their wild
delusions endow the river with another name, and people the valleys with
no living shapes? Does the broken mirror within reflect back the
countenance of real things, or shadows and shapes, crossed, mingled, and
bewildered,--the phantasma of a sick man's dreams? Yet, perchance, one
memory unscathed by the general ruin of the brain can make even the
beautiful Rhine more beautiful than it is to the common eye; can calm it
with the hues of departed love, and bids its possessor walk over its
vine-clad mountains with the beings that have ceased to _be_! There,
perhaps, the self-made monarch sits upon his throne and claims the
vessels as his fleet, the waves and the valleys as his own; there, the
enthusiast, blasted by the light of some imaginary creed, beholds the
shapes of angels, and watches in the clouds round the setting sun the
pavilions of God; there the victim of forsaken or perished love, mightier
than the sorcerers of old, evokes the dead, or recalls the faithless by
the philter of undying fancies. Ah, blessed art thou, the winged power
of Imagination that is within us! conquering even grief, brightening even
despair. Thou takest us from the world when reason can no longer bind us
to it, and givest to the maniac the inspiration and the solace of the
bard! Thou, the parent of the purer love, lingerest like love, when even
ourself forsakes us, and lightest up the shattered chambers of the heart
with the glory that makes a sanctity of decay.
ELLFELD.--MAYENCE.--HEIDELBERG.--A CONVERSATION BETWEEN VANE AND THE
GERMAN STUDENT.--THE RUINS OF THE CASTLE OF HEIDELBERG AND ITS SOLITARY
IT was now the full noon; light clouds were bearing up towards the
opposite banks of the Rhine, but over the Gothic towers of Ellfeld the
sky spread blue and clear; the river danced beside the old gray walls
with a sunny wave, and close at hand a vessel crowded with passengers,
and loud with eager voices, gave a merry life to the scene. On the
opposite bank the hills sloped away into the far horizon, and one slight
skiff in the midst of the waters broke the solitary brightness of the
The town of Ellfeld was the gift of Otho the First to the Church; not far
from thence is the crystal spring that gives its name to the delicious
grape of Markbrunner.
"Ah," quoth Du-----e, "doubtless the good bishops of Mayence made the
best of the vicinity!"
They stayed some little time at this town, and visited the ruins of
Scharfenstein; thence proceeding up the river, they passed Nieder Walluf,
called the Gate of the Rheingau, and the luxuriant garden of Schierstein;
thence, sailing by the castle-seat of the Prince Nassau Usingen, and
passing two long and narrow isles, they arrived at Mayence, as the sun
shot his last rays upon the waters, gilding the proud cathedral-spire,
and breaking the mists that began to gather behind, over the rocks of the
Ever memorable Mayence,--memorable alike for freedom and for song, within
those walls how often woke the gallant music of the Troubadour; and how
often beside that river did the heart of the maiden tremble to the lay!
Within those walls the stout Walpoden first broached the great scheme of
the Hanseatic league; and, more than all, O memorable Mayence, thou canst
claim the first invention of the mightiest engine of human
intellect,--the great leveller of power, the Demiurgus of the moral
world,--the Press! Here too lived the maligned hero of the greatest
drama of modern genius, the traditionary Faust, illustrating in himself
the fate of his successors in dispensing knowledge,--held a monster for
his wisdom, and consigned to the penalties of hell as a recompense for
the benefits he had conferred on earth!
At Mayence, Gertrude heard so much and so constantly of Heidelberg, that
she grew impatient to visit that enchanting town; and as Du-----e
considered the air of Heidelberg more pure and invigorating than that of
Mayence, they resolved to fix within it their temporary residence. Alas!
it was the place destined to close their brief and melancholy pilgrimage,
and to become to the heart of Trevylyan the holiest spot which the earth
contained,--the KAABA of the world. But Gertrude, unconscious of her
fate, conversed gayly as their carriage rolled rapidly on, and,
constantly alive to every new sensation, she touched with her
characteristic vivacity on all that they had seen in their previous
route. There is a great charm in the observations of one new to the
world; if we ourselves have become somewhat tired of "its hack sights and
sounds," we hear in their freshness a voice from our own youth.
In the haunted valley of the Neckar, the most crystal of rivers, stands
the town of Heidelberg. The shades of evening gathered round it as their
heavy carriage rattled along the antique streets, and not till the next
day was Gertrude aware of all the unrivalled beauties that environ the
Vane, who was an early riser, went forth alone in the morning to
reconnoitre the town; and as he was gazing on the tower of St. Peter, he
heard himself suddenly accosted. He turned round and saw the German
student whom they had met among the mountains of Taunus at his elbow.
"Monsieur has chosen well in coming hither," said the student; "and I
trust our town will not disappoint his expectations." Vane answered with
courtesy, and the German offering to accompany him in his walk, their
conversation fell naturally on the life of a university, and the current
education of the German people.
"It is surprising," said the student, "that men are eternally inventing
new systems of education, and yet persevering in the old. How many years
ago is it since Fichte predicted in the system of Pestalozzi the
regeneration of the German people? What has it done? We admire, we
praise, and we blunder on in the very course Pestalozzi proves to be
erroneous. Certainly," continued the student, "there must be some
radical defect in a system of culture in which genius is an exception,
and dulness the result. Yet here, in our German universities, everything
proves that education without equitable institutions avails little in the
general formation of character. Here the young men of the colleges mix
on the most equal terms; they are daring, romantic, enamoured of freedom
even to its madness. They leave the University: no political career
continues the train of mind they had acquired; they plunge into
obscurity; live scattered and separate, and the student inebriated with
Schiller sinks into the passive priest or the lethargic baron. His
college career, so far from indicating his future life, exactly reverses
it: he is brought up in one course in order to proceed in another. And
this I hold to be the universal error of education in all countries; they
conceive it a certain something to be finished at a certain age. They do
not make it a part of the continuous history of life, but a wandering
"You have been in England?" asked Vane.
"Yes; I have travelled over nearly the whole of it on foot. I was poor
at that time, and imagining there was a sort of masonry between all men
of letters, I inquired at each town for the _savants_, and asked money of
them as a matter of course."
Vane almost laughed outright at the simplicity and naive unconsciousness
of degradation with which the student proclaimed himself a public beggar.
"And how did you generally succeed?"
"In most cases I was threatened with the stocks, and twice I was
consigned by the _juge de paix_ to the village police, to be passed to
some mystic Mecca they were pleased to entitle 'a parish.' Ah"
(continued the German with much _bonhomie_), "it was a pity to see in a
great nation so much value attached to such a trifle as money. But what
surprised me greatly was the tone of your poetry. Madame de Stael, who
knew perhaps as much of England as she did of Germany, tells us that its
chief character is the _chivalresque_; and, excepting only Scott, who, by
the way, is _not_ English, I did not find one chivalrous poet among you.
Yet," continued the student, "between ourselves, I fancy that in our
present age of civilization, there is an unexamined mistake in the
general mind as to the value of poetry. It delights still as ever, but
it has ceased to teach. The prose of the heart enlightens, touches,
rouses, far more than poetry. Your most philosophical poets would be
commonplace if turned into prose. Verse cannot contain the refining
subtle thoughts which a great prose writer embodies; the rhyme eternally
cripples it; it properly deals with the common problems of human nature,
which are now hackneyed, and not with the nice and philosophizing
corollaries which may be drawn from them. Thus, though it would seem at
first a paradox, commonplace is more the element of poetry than of
This sentiment charmed Vane, who had nothing of the poet about him; and
he took the student to share their breakfast at the inn, with a
complacency he rarely experienced at the remeeting with a new
After breakfast, our party proceeded through the town towards the
wonderful castle which is its chief attraction, and the noblest wreck of
And now pausing, the mountain yet unscaled, the stately ruin frowned upon
them, girt by its massive walls and hanging terraces, round which from
place to place clung the dwarfed and various foliage. High at the rear
rose the huge mountain, covered, save at its extreme summit, with dark
trees, and concealing in its mysterious breast the shadowy beings of the
legendary world. But towards the ruins, and up a steep ascent, you may
see a few scattered sheep thinly studding the broken ground. Aloft,
above the ramparts, rose, desolate and huge, the Palace of the Electors
of the Palatinate. In its broken walls you may trace the tokens of the
lightning that blasted its ancient pomp, but still leaves in the vast
extent of pile a fitting monument of the memory of Charlemagne. Below,
in the distance, spread the plain far and spacious, till the shadowy
river, with one solitary sail upon its breast, united the melancholy
scene of earth with the autumnal sky.
"See," said Vane, pointing to two peasants who were conversing near them
on the matters of their little trade, utterly unconscious of the
associations of the spot, "see, after all that is said and done about
human greatness, it is always the greatness of the few. Ages pass, and
leave the poor herd, the mass of men, eternally the same,--hewers of wood
and drawers of water. The pomp of princes has its ebb and flow, but the
peasant sells his fruit as gayly to the stranger on the ruins as to the
emperor in the palace."
"Will it be always so?" said the student.
"Let us hope not, for the sake of permanence in glory," said Trevylyan.
"Had _a people_ built yonder palace, its splendour would never have
Vane shrugged his shoulders, and Du-----e took snuff.
But all the impressions produced by the castle at a distance are as
nothing when you stand within its vast area and behold the architecture
of all ages blended into one mighty ruin! The rich hues of the masonry,
the sweeping facades--every description of building which man ever framed
for war or for luxury--is here; all having only the common
character,--RUIN. The feudal rampart, the yawning fosse, the rude tower,
the splendid arch, the strength of a fortress, the magnificence of a
palace,--all united, strike upon the soul like the history of a fallen
empire in all its epochs.
"There is one singular habitant of these ruins," said the student,--"a
solitary painter, who has dwelt here some twenty years, companioned only
by his Art. No other apartment but that which he tenants is occupied by
a human being."
"What a poetical existence!" cried Gertrude, enchanted with a solitude so
full of associations.
"Perhaps so," said the cruel Vane, ever anxious to dispel an illusion,
"but more probably custom has deadened to him all that overpowers
ourselves with awe; and he may tread among these ruins rather seeking to
pick up some rude morsel of antiquity, than feeding his imagination with
the dim traditions that invest them with so august a poetry."
"Monsieur's conjecture has something of the truth in it," said the
German; "but then the painter is a Frenchman."
There is a sense of fatality in the singular mournfulness and majesty
which belong to the ruins of Heidelberg, contrasting the vastness of the
strength with the utterness of the ruin. It has been twice struck with
lightning, and is the wreck of the elements, not of man; during the great
siege it sustained, the lightning is supposed to have struck the powder
magazine by accident.
What a scene for some great imaginative work! What a mocking
interference of the wrath of nature in the puny contests of men! One
stroke of "the red right arm" above us, crushing the triumph of ages, and
laughing to scorn the power of the beleaguers and the valour of the
They passed the whole day among these stupendous ruins, and felt, when
they descended to their inn, as if they had left the caverns of some
NO PART OF THE EARTH REALLY SOLITARY.--THE SONG OF THE FAIRIES.--THE
SACRED SPOT.--THE WITCH OF THE EVIL WINDS.--THE SPELL AND THE DUTY OF THE
BUT in what spot of the world is there ever utter solitude? The vanity
of man supposes that loneliness is _his_ absence! Who shall say what
millions of spiritual beings glide invisibly among scenes apparently the
most deserted? Or what know we of our own mechanism, that we should deny
the possibility of life and motion to things that we cannot ourselves
At moonlight, in the Great Court of Heidelberg, on the borders of the
shattered basin overgrown with weeds, the following song was heard by the
melancholy shades that roam at night through the mouldering halls of old,
and the gloomy hollows in the mountain of Heidelberg.
SONG OF THE FAIRIES IN THE RUINS OF HEIDELBERG.
From the woods and the glossy green,
With the wild thyme strewn;
From the rivers whose crisped sheen
Is kissed by the trembling moon;
While the dwarf looks out from his mountain cave,
And the erl king from his lair,
And the water-nymph from her moaning wave,
We skirr the limber air.
There's a smile on the vine-clad shore,
A smile on the castled heights;
They dream back the days of yore,
And they smile at our roundel rites!
Our roundel rites!
Lightly we tread these halls around,
Lightly tread we;
Yet, hark! we have scared with a single sound
The moping owl on the breathless tree,
And the goblin sprites!
Ha, ha! we have scared with a single sound
The old gray owl on the breathless tree,
And the goblin sprites!
"They come not," said Pipalee; "yet the banquet is prepared, and the poor
queen will be glad of some refreshment."
"What a pity! all the rose-leaves will be over-broiled," said Nip.
"Let us amuse ourselves with the old painter," quoth Trip, springing over
"Well said," cried Pipalee and Nip; and all three, leaving my lord
treasurer amazed at their levity, whisked into the painter's apartment.
Permitting them to throw the ink over their victim's papers, break his
pencils, mix his colours, mislay his nightcap, and go whiz against his
face in the shape of a great bat, till the astonished Frenchman began to
think the pensive goblins of the place had taken a sprightly fit,--we
hasten to a small green spot some little way from the town, in the valley
of the Neckar, and by the banks of its silver stream. It was circled
round by dark trees, save on that side bordered by the river. The
wild-flowers sprang profusely from the turf, which yet was smooth and
singularly green. And there was the German fairy describing a circle
round the spot, and making his elvish spells; and Nymphalin sat
droopingly in the centre, shading her face, which was bowed down as the
head of a water-lily, and weeping crystal tears.
There came a hollow murmur through the trees, and a rush as of a mighty
wind, and a dark form emerged from the shadow and approached the spot.
The face was wrinkled and old, and stern with a malevolent and evil
aspect. The frame was lean and gaunt, and supported by a staff, and a
short gray mantle covered its bended shoulders.
"Things of the moonbeam!" said the form, in a shrill and ghastly voice,
"what want ye here; and why charm ye this spot from the coming of me and
"Dark witch of the blight and blast," answered the fairy, "THOU that
nippest the herb in its tender youth, and eatest up the core of the soft
bud; behold, it is but a small spot that the fairies claim from thy
demesnes, and on which, through frost and heat, they will keep the
herbage green and the air gentle in its sighs!"
"And, wherefore, O dweller in the crevices of the earth, wherefore
wouldst thou guard this spot from the curses of the seasons?"
"We know by our instinct," answered the fairy, "that this spot will
become the grave of one whom the fairies love; hither, by an unfelt
influence, shall we guide her yet living steps; and in gazing upon this
spot shall the desire of quiet and the resignation to death steal upon
her soul. Behold, throughout the universe, all things are at war with
one another,--the lion with the lamb; the serpent with the bird; and even
the gentlest bird itself with the moth of the air; or the worm of the
humble earth! What then to men, and to the spirits transcending men, is
so lovely and so sacred as a being that harmeth none; what so beautiful
as Innocence; what so mournful as its untimely tomb? And shall not that
tomb be sacred; shall it not be our peculiar care? May we not mourn over
it as at the passing away of some fair miracle in Nature, too tender to
endure, too rare to be forgotten? It is for this, O dread waker of the
blast, that the fairies would consecrate this little spot; for this they
would charm away from its tranquil turf the wandering ghoul and the evil
children of the night. Here, not the ill-omened owl, nor the blind bat,
nor the unclean worm shall come. And thou shouldst have neither will nor
power to nip the flowers of spring, nor sear the green herbs of summer.
Is it not, dark mother of the evil winds,--is it not _our_ immemorial
office to tend the grave of Innocence, and keep fresh the flowers round
the resting-place of Virgin Love?"
Then the witch drew her cloak round her, and muttered to herself, and
without further answer turned away among the trees and vanished, as the
breath of the east wind, which goeth with her as her comrade, scattered
the melancholy leaves along her path!
GERTRUDE AND TREVYLYAN, WHEN THE FORMER IS AWAKENED TO THE APPROACH OF
THE next day, Gertrude and her companions went along the banks of the
haunted Neckar. She had passed a sleepless and painful night, and her
evanescent and childlike spirits had sobered down into a melancholy and
thoughtful mood. She leaned back in an open carriage with Trevylyan,
ever constant, by her side, while Du-----e and Vane rode slowly in
advance. Trevylyan tried in vain to cheer her; even his attempts
(usually so eagerly received) to charm her duller moments by tale or
legend were, in this instance, fruitless. She shook her head gently,
pressed his hand, and said, "No, dear Trevylyan, no; even your art fails
to-day, but your kindness never!" and pressing his hand to her lips, she
burst passionately into tears.
Alarmed and anxious, he clasped her to his breast, and strove to lift her
face, as it drooped on its resting-place, and kiss away its tears. "Oh,"
said she, at length, "do not despise my weakness; I am overcome by my own
thoughts: I look upon the world, and see that it is fair and good; I look
upon you, and I see all that I can venerate and adore. Life seems to me
so sweet, and the earth so lovely; can you wonder, then, that I should
shrink at the thought of death? Nay, interrupt me not, dear Albert; the
thought must be borne and braved. I have not cherished, I have not
yielded to it through my long-increasing illness; but there have been
times when it has forced itself upon me, and now, _now_ more palpably
than ever. Do not think me weak and childish. I never feared death till
I knew you; but to see you no more,--never again to touch this dear hand,
never to thank you for your love, never to be sensible of your care,--to
lie down and sleep, _and never, never, once more to dream of you_! Ah,
that is a bitter thought! but I will brave it,--yes, brave it as one
worthy of your regard."
Trevylyan, choked by his emotions, covered his own face with his hands,
and, leaning back in the carriage, vainly struggled with his sobs.
"Perhaps," she said, yet ever and anon clinging to the hope that had
utterly abandoned _him_, "perhaps, I may yet deceive myself; and my love
for you, which seems to me as if it could conquer death, may bear me up
against this fell disease. The hope to live with you, to watch you, to
share your high dreams, and oh! above all, to soothe you in sorrow and
sickness, as you have soothed me--has not that hope something that may
support even this sinking frame? And who shall love thee as I love; who
see thee as I have seen; who pray for thee in gratitude and tears as I
have prayed? Oh, Albert, so little am I jealous of you, so little do I
think of myself in comparison, that I could close my eyes happily on the
world if I knew that what I could be to thee another will be!"
"Gertrude," said Trevylyan, and lifting up his colourless face, he gazed
upon her with an earnest and calm solemnity, "Gertrude, let us be united
at once! If Fate must sever us, let her cut the last tie too; let us
feel that at least upon earth we have been all in all to each other; let
us defy death, even as it frowns upon us. Be mine to-morrow--this
day--oh, God! be mine!"
Over even that pale countenance, beneath whose hues the lamp of life so
faintly fluttered, a deep, radiant flush passed one moment, lighting up
the beautiful ruin with the glow of maiden youth and impassioned hope,
and then died rapidly away.
"No, Albert," she said sighing; "no! it must not be. Far easier would
come the pang to you, while yet we are not wholly united; and for my own
part I am selfish, and feel as if I should leave a tenderer remembrance
on your heart thus parted,--tenderer, but not so sad. I would not wish
you to feel yourself widowed to my memory; I would not cling like a
blight to your fair prospects of the future. Remember me rather as a
dream,--as something never wholly won, and therefore asking no fidelity
but that of kind and forbearing thoughts. Do you remember one evening as
we sailed along the Rhine--ah! happy, happy hour!--that we heard from the
banks a strain of music,--not so skilfully played as to be worth
listening to for itself, but, suiting as it did the hour and the scene,
we remained silent, that we might hear it the better; and when it died
insensibly upon the waters, a certain melancholy stole over us; we felt
that a something that softened the landscape had gone, and we conversed
less lightly than before? Just so, my own loved, my own adored
Trevylyan, just so is the influence that our brief love, your poor
Gertrude's existence, should bequeath to your remembrance. A sound, a
presence, should haunt you for a little while, but no more, ere you again
become sensible of the glories that court your way!"
But as Gertrude said this, she turned to Trevylyan, and seeing his agony,
she could refrain no longer; she felt that to soothe was to insult; and
throwing herself upon his breast, they mingled their tears together.
A SPOT TO BE BURIED IN.
ON their return homeward, Du-----e took the third seat in the carriage,
and endeavoured, with his usual vivacity, to cheer the spirits of his
companions; and such was the elasticity of Gertrude's nature, that with
her, he, to a certain degree, succeeded in his kindly attempt. Quickly
alive to the charms of scenery, she entered by degrees into the external
beauties which every turn in the road opened to their view; and the
silvery smoothness of the river, that made the constant attraction of the
landscape, the serenity of the time, and the clearness of the heavens,
tended to tranquillize a mind that, like a sunflower, so instinctively
turned from the shadow to the light.
Once Du-----e stopped the carriage in a spot of herbage, bedded among the
trees, and said to Gertrude, "We are now in one of the many places along
the Neckar which your favourite traditions serve to consecrate. Amidst
yonder copses, in the early ages of Christianity, there dwelt a hermit,
who, though young in years, was renowned for the sanctity of his life.
None knew whence he came, nor for what cause he had limited the circle of
life to the seclusion of his cell. He rarely spoke, save when his
ghostly advice or his kindly prayer was needed; he lived upon herbs, and
the wild fruits which the peasants brought to his cave; and every morning
and every evening he came to this spot to fill his pitcher from the water
of the stream. But here he was observed to linger long after his task
was done, and to sit gazing upon the walls of a convent which then rose
upon the opposite side of the bank, though now even its ruins are gone.
Gradually his health gave way beneath the austerities he practised; and
one evening he was found by some fishermen insensible on the turf. They
bore him for medical aid to the opposite convent; and one of the
sisterhood, the daughter of a prince, was summoned to attend the recluse.
But when his eyes opened upon hers, a sudden recognition appeared to
seize both. He spoke; and the sister threw herself on the couch of the
dying man, and shrieked forth a name, the most famous in the surrounding
country,--the name of a once noted minstrel, who, in those rude times,
had mingled the poet with the lawless chief, and was supposed, years
since, to have fallen in one of the desperate frays between prince and
outlaw, which were then common; storming the very castle which held her,
now the pious nun, then the beauty and presider over the tournament and
galliard. In her arms the spirit of the hermit passed away. She
survived but a few hours, and left conjecture busy with a history to
which it never obtained further clew. Many a troubadour in later times
furnished forth in poetry the details which truth refused to supply; and
the place where the hermit at sunrise and sunset ever came to gaze upon
the convent became consecrated by song."
The place invested with this legendary interest was impressed with a
singular aspect of melancholy quiet; wildflowers yet lingered on the
turf, whose grassy sedges gently overhung the Neckar, that murmured
amidst them with a plaintive music. Not a wind stirred the trees; but at
a little distance from the place, the spire of a church rose amidst the
copse; and, as they paused, they suddenly heard from the holy building
the bell that summons to the burial of the dead. It came on the ear in
such harmony with the spot, with the hour, with the breathing calm, that
it thrilled to the heart of each with an inexpressible power. It was
like the voice of another world, that amidst the solitude of nature
summoned the lulled spirit from the cares of this; it invited, not
repulsed, and had in its tone more of softness than of awe.
Gertrude turned, with tears starting to her eyes, and, laying her hand on
Trevylyan's, whispered, "In such a spot, so calm, so sequestered, yet in
the neighbourhood of the house of God, would I wish this broken frame to
be consigned to rest."
CHAPTER THE LAST.
THE CONCLUSION OF THIS TALE.
FROM that day Gertrude's spirit resumed its wonted cheerfulness, and for
the ensuing week she never reverted to her approaching fate; she seemed
once more to have grown unconscious of its limit. Perhaps she sought,
anxious for Trevylyan to the last, not to throw additional gloom over
their earthly separation; or, perhaps, once steadily regarding the
certainty of her doom, its terrors vanished. The chords of thought,
vibrating to the subtlest emotions, may be changed by a single incident,
or in a single hour; a sound of sacred music, a green and quiet
burial-place, may convert the form of death into the aspect of an angel.
And therefore wisely, and with a beautiful lore, did the Greeks strip the
grave of its unreal gloom; wisely did they body forth the great principle
of Rest by solemn and lovely images, unconscious of the northern madness
that made a Spectre of REPOSE!
But while Gertrude's _spirit_ resumed its healthful tone, her _frame_
rapidly declined, and a few days now could do the ravage of months a
little while before.
One evening, amidst the desolate ruins of Heidelberg, Trevylyan, who had
gone forth alone to indulge the thoughts which he strove to stifle in
Gertrude's presence, suddenly encountered Vane. That calm and almost
callous pupil of the adversities of the world was standing alone, and
gazing upon the shattered casements and riven tower, through which the
sun now cast its slant and parting ray.
Trevylyan, who had never loved this cold and unsusceptible man, save for
the sake of Gertrude, felt now almost a hatred creep over him, as he
thought in such a time, and with death fastening upon the flower of his
house, he could yet be calm, and smile, and muse, and moralize, and play
the common part of the world. He strode slowly up to him, and standing
full before him, said with a hollow voice and writhing smile, "You amuse
yourself pleasantly, sir: this is a fine scene; and to meditate over
griefs a thousand years hushed to rest is better than watching over a
sick girl and eating away your heart with fear!"
Vane looked at him quietly, but intently, and made no reply.
"Vane!" continued Trevylyan, with the same preternatural attempt at calm,
"Vane, in a few days all will be over, and you and I, the things, the
plotters, the false men of the world, will be left alone,--left by the
sole being that graces our dull life, that makes by her love either of us
worthy of a thought!"
Vane started, and turned away his face. "You are cruel," said he, with a
"What, man!" shouted Trevylyan, seizing him abruptly by the arm, "can
_you_ feel? Is your cold heart touched? Come then," added he, with a
wild laugh, "come, let us be friends!"
Vane drew himself aside, with a certain dignity, that impressed Trevylyan
even at that hour. "Some years hence," said he, "you will be called cold
as I am; sorrow will teach you the wisdom of indifference--it is a bitter
school, sir,--a bitter school! But think you that I do indeed see
unmoved my last hope shivered,--the last tie that binds me to my kind?
No, no! I feel it as a man may feel; I cloak it as a man grown gray in
misfortune should do! My child is more to me than your betrothed to you;
for you are young and wealthy, and life smiles before you; but I--no
more--sir, no more!"
"Forgive me," said Trevylyan, humbly, "I have wronged you; but Gertrude
is an excuse for any crime of love; and now listen to my last
prayer,--give her to me, even on the verge of the grave. Death cannot
seize her in the arms, in the vigils of a love like mine."
Vane shuddered. "It were to wed the dead," said he. "No!"
Trevylyan drew back, and without another word, hurried away; he returned
to the town; he sought, with methodical calmness, the owner of the piece
of ground in which Gertrude had wished to be buried. He purchased it,
and that very night he sought the priest of a neighbouring church, and
directed it should be consecrated according to the due rite and
The priest, an aged and pious man, was struck by the request, and the air
of him who made it.
"Shall it be done forthwith, sir?" said he, hesitating.
"Forthwith," answered Trevylyan, with a calm smile,--"a bridegroom, you
know, is naturally impatient."
For the next three days, Gertrude was so ill as to be confined to her
bed. All that time Trevylyan sat outside her door, without speaking,
scarcely lifting his eyes from the ground. The attendants passed to and
fro,--he heeded them not; perhaps as even the foreign menials turned
aside and wiped their eyes, and prayed God to comfort him, he required
compassion less at that time than any other. There is a stupefaction in
woe, and the heart sleeps without a pang when exhausted by its
But on the fourth day Gertrude rose, and was carried down (how changed,
yet how lovely ever!) to their common apartment. During those three days
the priest had been with her often, and her spirit, full of religion from
her childhood, had been unspeakably soothed by his comfort. She took
food from the hand of Trevylyan; she smiled upon him as sweetly as of
old. She conversed with him, though with a faint voice, and at broken
intervals. But she felt no pain; life ebbed away gradually, and without
a pang. "My father," she said to Vane, whose features still bore their
usual calm, whatever might have passed within, "I know that you will
grieve when I am gone more than the world might guess; for I alone know
what you were years ago, ere friends left you and fortune frowned, and
ere my poor mother died. But do not--do not believe that hope and
comfort leave you with me. Till the heaven pass away from the earth
there shall be comfort and hope for all."
They did not lodge in the town, but had fixed their abode on its
outskirts, and within sight of the Neckar; and from the window they saw a
light sail gliding gayly by till it passed, and solitude once more rested
upon the waters.
"The sail passes from our eyes," said Gertrude, pointing to it, "but
still it glides on as happily though we see it no more; and I feel--yes,
Father, I feel--I know that it is so with _us_. We glide down the river
of time from the eyes of men, but we cease not the less to _be_!"
And now, as the twilight descended, she expressed a wish, before she
retired to rest, to be left alone with Trevylyan. He was not then
sitting by her side, for he would not trust himself to do so, but with
his face averted, at a little distance from her. She called him by his
name; he answered not, nor turned. Weak as she was, she raised herself
from the sofa, and crept gently along the floor till she came to him, and
sank in his arms.
"Ah, unkind!" she said, "unkind for once! Will you turn away from me?
Come, let us look once more on the river: see! the night darkens over it.
Our pleasant voyage, the type of our love, is finished; our sail may be
unfurled no more. Never again can your voice soothe the lassitude of
sickness with the legend and the song; the course is run, the vessel is
broken up, night closes over its fragments; but now, in this hour, love
me, be kind to me as ever. Still let me be your own Gertrude, still let
me close my eyes this night, as before, with the sweet consciousness that
I am loved."
"Loved! O Gertrude! speak not to me thus!"
"Come, that is yourself again!" and she clung with weak arms caressingly
to his breast. "And now," she said more solemnly, "let us forget that we
are mortal; let us remember only that life is a part, not the whole, of
our career; let us feel in this soft hour, and while yet we are
unsevered, the presence of The Eternal that is within us, so that it
shall not be as death, but as a short absence; and when once the pang of
parting is over, you must think only that we are shortly to meet again.
What! you turn from me still? See, I do not weep or grieve, I have
conquered the pang of our absence; will you be outdone by me? Do you
remember, Albert, that you once told me how the wisest of the sages of
old, in prison, and before death, consoled his friends with the proof of
the immortality of the soul? Is it not a consolation; does it not
suffice; or will you deem it wise from the lips of wisdom, but vain from
the lips of love?"
"Hush, hush!" said Trevylyan, wildly; "or I shall think you an angel
But let us close this commune, and leave unrevealed the _last_ sacred
words that ever passed between them upon earth.
When Vane and the physician stole back softly into the room, Trevylyan
motioned to them to be still. "She sleeps," he whispered; "hush!" And
in truth, wearied out by her own emotions, and lulled by the belief that
she had soothed one with whom her heart dwelt now, as ever, she had
fallen into sleep, or it may be, insensibility, on his breast. There as
she lay, so fair, so frail, so delicate, the twilight deepened into
shade, and the first star, like the hope of the future, broke forth upon
the darkness of the earth.
Nothing could equal the stillness without, save that which lay
breathlessly within. For not one of the group stirred or spoke, and
Trevylyan, bending over her, never took his eyes from her face, watching
the parted lips, and fancying that he imbibed the breath. Alas, the
breath was stilled! from sleep to death she had glided without a
sigh,--happy, most happy in that death! cradled in the arms of unchanged
love, and brightened in her last thought by the consciousness of
innocence and the assurances of Heaven!
. . . . . . .
Trevylyan, after a long sojourn on the Continent, returned to England.
He plunged into active life, and became what is termed in this age of
little names a distinguished and noted man. But what was mainly
remarkable in his future conduct was his impatience of rest. He eagerly
courted all occupations, even of the most varied and motley
kind,--business, letters, ambition, pleasure. He suffered no pause in
his career; and leisure to him was as care to others. He lived in the
world, as the worldly do, discharging its duties, fostering its
affections, and fulfilling its career. But there was a deep and wintry
change within him,--_the sunlight of his life was gone_; the loveliness
of romance had left the earth. The stem was proof as heretofore to the
blast, but the green leaves were severed from it forever, and the bird
had forsaken its boughs. Once he had idolized the beauty that is born of
song, the glory and the ardour that invest such thoughts as are not of
our common clay; but the well of enthusiasm was dried up, and the golden
bowl was broken at the fountain. With Gertrude the poetry of existence
was gone. As she herself had described her loss, a music had ceased to
breathe along the face of things; and though the bark might sail on as
swiftly, and the stream swell with as proud a wave, a something that had
vibrated on the heart was still, and the magic of the voyage was no more.
And Gertrude sleeps on the spot where she wished her last couch to be
made; and far--oh, far dearer, is that small spot on the distant banks of
the gliding Neckar to Trevylyan's heart than all the broad lands and
fertile fields of his ancestral domain. The turf too preserves its
emerald greenness; and it would seem to me that the field flowers spring
up by the sides of the simple tomb even more profusely than of old. A
curve in the bank breaks the tide of the Neckar; and therefore its stream
pauses, as if to linger reluctantly, by that solitary grave, and to mourn
among the rustling sedges ere it passes on. And I have thought, when I
last looked upon that quiet place, when I saw the turf so fresh, and the
flowers so bright of hue, that aerial hands might _indeed_ tend the sod;
that it was by no _imaginary_ spells that I summoned the fairies to my
tale; that in truth, and with vigils constant though unseen, they yet
kept from all polluting footsteps, and from the harsher influence of the
seasons, the grave of one who so loved their race; and who, in her gentle
and spotless virtue claimed kindred with the beautiful Ideal of the
world. Is there one of us who has not known some being for whom it
seemed not too wild a fantasy to indulge such dreams?
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