« ForrigeFortsæt »
where a Bauer (farmer,) was synonymous with a rude, uncouth fellow. During the busy seasons their villages present scenes of bustling confusion. Imagine a village of five hundred farmers crowded tightly along compact-built streets, each having his house, barn and stables, skirting a square piece of ground, where the whole would often not be large enough to contain a common size bank-barn; where the streets are narrow and no back alleys to permit the egress and ingress of cattle; where the domestic arrangements are constantly hampered and encroached upon by animal impertinence: imagine what a sudden transition of the village into solitude, during the busy season of hay-making and harvest, when everybody, men and women and children, are out reaping; what continuous lines of loaded wagons from morning till night, when they gather in their crops; and then what a steady shower of sounds during the winter, when a thousand flails are thrashing away wearily at their grain, from day to day. All these combine to form a most striking contrast to rural life in America. Where such a multitude of different interests are crowded together into such a small compass, the most precise regulations must be observed to maintain order and right. The village must have its cowherd, shepherd, swineherd and geeseherd; each has his flock to attend to which he daily leads to their respective pasture. In the morning each will blow his horn along the streets at a fixed hour, as the signal for departure, and in a few minutes the whole army responds most loyally to his call.
A great many German towns, even down to the smallest villages, have been founded by the Romans. Much as we should respect the ancients, for many eminent qualities, they certainly knew little about planning towns. Even larger towns often look as if their streets had been started and finished by accident. Crooked, narrow lanes, intersected at all possible angles, except right angles, parabolas ever approaching but never meeting, most perfect puzzles to a traveler. Some through which I have gone a dozen of times, still remain inscrutable mysteries to me. In Augsburg, I could scarcely venture a hundred yards from my hotel without being lost. In my wanderings I crossed familiar streets, I knew not where nor how. And when I aimed in the direction of known points, the imperceptible curves would lure me to quarters diametrically opposite. To me they were so mysteriously obscure that they became subjects of the profoundest study. Good pavements are a rare luxury throughout Germany. In Cologne, Halle, Wittenberg, and many other cities, there are no side-walks at all. The streets are paved, but the stones expose an uneven surface joined by empty crevices which make them painfully unpleasant to walk upon. Though provided with thicksoled boots, my suffering experience, impels me to designate them as some did the walks of Cologne:
"Pavements fring'd with murderous stones."
As these evils have been entailed upon the Germans by the Romans, they rather deserve our pity than reproof. And a remedy would require a reconstruction of the towns, which would be impossible. Besides, the citizens are measurably compensated for this unavoidable inconvenience by their pleasant promenades through gardens and groves. The Germans are fond of nature; they love birds and trees. Their disinterested
Some of the roads
love for these are shewn by a thousand little acts. are lined for miles with trees, old and stately; every town, often down to the rural villages, is skirted with parks. Some are dense forests where trees are growing in their native wildness, among under-bushes and birds, penetrated by promenades fringed with plants and flowers. The present generation ramble among trees which their ancestors have planted five hundred years ago; and they, again, are planting many for a distant posterity. I confess the planting of a tree for the benefit of a coming generation, is such a palpable mark of an unselfish heart, such a purely disinterested act, that this prevalent characteristic of the Germans, has greatly elevated them in my estimation. In Germany, trees have become a municipal necessity. They are seldom found through the town. Their parks are all outside. They are quiet places of retirement, where we can enjoy the sanctuary and solitude of nature, unmolested by the rush and dust of business; where the birds warble their melodies in their native freedom, on their own trees and branches. Here in Berlin, though in the centre of the city, I am within fifteen minutes walk of the Thiergarten, a park that looks as forest-like and unartificial as some of our western wilds. The walks crawl through under the closely-woven canopy of overhanging limbs, forming natural arbors, several miles in length. The Spree, a stream remarkably modest and reserved, steals gently and cautiously along its winding path. Here and there, large swans move slowly along its banks, while all is quiet like a house of mourning. In my daily rambles through its leafy streets, I meet many persons, old and young, who resort hither to spend an hour in quiet retirement. Clusters of children lead each other by the hand, vainly looking and listening for summer birds. They have all departed. Occasionally I am startled by a slight rustling among the leaves, by some poor female, gathering small pieces of wood. Sometimes I see aged persons, sitting in some concealed corner for hours; while the yellow leaves are falling fast around them, and the gentle breeze that blows them down, softly waves their silvery locks, they seem to be lost in musing over the spirit of autumn, which is settling upon them. Childhood, age, the seared leaf and the spirit of super-earthly stillness that hovers over this solitude of autumn! O, it prophecies of something better, it points to an approaching spring, when leaves will bud and birds will sing again.
O Reader! had you in your mind
Such stores as silent thought can bring,
And then their love and talent for music often throws additional charms around these shady retreats. In Germany you find music everywhere. The smallest Dorf has its village choir, that excites in the young a love for song. Every considerable town has its bands, which during the summer season diffuse the "sweet melody of sound." Early in the morning, I often heard them under a tabernacle of dense foliage, through which a thousand birds were chirruping and piping their untutored accompaniments. And such birds as they have here, real Jenny Lind's among the feathery tribe. A short time ago, I was inadvertently thrown into a fit of patriotic indignation, by being told of a German
traveler, that we had no singing birds in America. Why, said he, your nature is fundamentally unpoetic. You have no mountains that deserve the name; your birds can't sing, your very dogs are a set of mean, sneaking, pilfering animals, that are even void of faithfulness, a common attribute of dogs in other countries. You have nothing but your primeaval forests, but they are so remote that they are rarely seen. In my own heart I pronounced this a vile slander. For my part, I never could see much poetry in dogs. And with German dogs it is a little like with their masters; if they are more orderly and faithful than ours, it is not the result of nature or choice, but of a torturing oppression. The rights of dogs are shamefully trampled upon here. They must do the work of horses, are hitched to regular wagons, and tug sadly along outside of their natural sphere. Whatever good there is in our republican dogs, is not tied on them by harness, but is practised by them from principle. Their birds can not all sing. The stork is a very good-natured bird, whose parental affections are very tender and strong, but it has no ear for music. Its habits put every principle of poetry at defiance. Yet its society is courted by all classes. Cart-wheels are placed on chimneys and house-tops, to invite them to build their nests there. If they accept the invitation it is considered a mark of respect and an omen for good. If any person kills one, he must expect that its death will be revenged on him in some form or other. But let the truth be fairly spoken; the nightingale sings most charmingly. Its plumage is exceedingly plain, and its habits so timid and shy, that it has often reminded me of some bashful maidens, who though able to charm the ear of others, shrink from it in their presence with timid fear. But one can easily steal a song behind a bush or under a thicket; while it warbles and modulates its cheerful notes, its puny form is mostly concealed among the foliage. Modesty and merit are qualities rarely combined, and whenever found elicits our warmest admiration. And then the skylark, whose voice is a little more harsh and shrill, and its habits more bold and aspiring, possesses qualities equally pleasing. Larger and gayer in its dress, it naturally looks a little more to outward show. But its habits and the spirit of its song are always elevating, and are rich in poetry and prophecy. It is the "excelsior" of its race. It is a deeply interesting sight, to see it start from the earth, singing cheerily, as it flaps upwards, its notes becoming clearer as it gains the higher and purer air, mounting higher and higher still, until its form is lost in the blue sky and its ringing notes die faintly away, but sounding upward still. Does not this ascension of song, this upward flight of animal instinct, point to "a better country" above the bondage of sin and the fetters of sense, to a home
Far from these scenes of narrow night,
Earthly ties clog our praises. The higher in grace and its attainments, the purer our praise and the more fearless our flight. It seems to me our birds excel these generally, in rich and gaudy plumage. But these are less exposed to danger than ours. To destroy or rob a bird's nest, or in any way injure singing birds, is, in many places, a serious offense, and severely punished. They are treated with all the respect and defer
ence due to useful members of the community, and receive the protection to which their helpless innocence entitle them.
Trees, birds, music-these are efficient instructors, which elevate and refine. Who does not remember with fondness some familiar tree near his parental dwelling; some favorite bird as an acquaintance from childhood; some family tunes which have vitally identified themselves with his early education? The sight of a tree, the cooing of a dove, the sound of a sacred tune at church, have often in this remote country, called up a thousand pleasant associations of home and its memories. The Germans act wisely in giving all classes of society access to amusements which refine and instruct. They are extremely fond of out-door life. What Goethe said of the Strassburghers, may be said of the Germans generally: "They are passionately fond of walking, and they have a good right to be so." Old and young, rich and poor, wise and unwise, all walk; walk through the same walks, among the same trees to hear the same music; walk every day and walk long too. This practice has its bodily uses. As a nation, the Germans are remarkably healthy. You meet few hot-house plants among them, or sickly appearances, who seem to have been shut out from natural sun-light half their days. The climate may be entitled to some praise for this, but their habits do more, their life in the open air and diet. Their diet is far more simple than ours. They begin and end the day with a very light meal; they do not eat so much heavy, hot, half-baked undigestible food. Their cooks, like their authors, do not deal so much in omnibus dishes. They prefer to undertake less at a time and attend to it thoroughly. Hence dyspepsia and its train of suffering are unknown to them. The Germans pay great respect and veneration to the resting-place of the dead. Their burialgrounds are delightful places of resort, which are visited during all hours of the day. The hillocks are interspersed with shrubbery, the walks are lined with trees, and during the summer, flowers bloom on almost every grave. The "God's Acre" is a spot in which the whole community feels a deep interest, for each has some kindred dust reposing there. The tombstones are nearly all in the form of a cross, with a short inscription, a short passage from Holy Writ, or the beautiful phrase, "AUF WIEDERSCHEN,"-which cannot be rendered into English-often it has greeted me from the adode of the dead and from the lips of the living, but always kindled new hopes in me for "the land of the blest." The crosses and monuments are hung with wreathes woven by the hand of affection. Bouquets are strewn on the green turf, while plants are busily blooming submissive cheerfulness over their dust. Each cemetery has a dead-house, where persons must be placed soon after their decease, until the day of burial. On a pleasant morning in August, I visited the Cemetery of Munich, in its dead-house were eight corpses, whose coffins were strewn with wreaths of evergreen and flowers. Every grave was a flower-vase, edged with turf, and at one end was a basin for holy water for the whole cemetery. A crowd of well-dressed and ill-dressed persons, rich and poor, were scattered along its aisles, fondling some flowret on the grave of a departed friend, sprinkling the hillocks with water, and putting holy water into the little basin. I wil venture to call even the last act a virtue, the token of a tender and well
meant recollection. Each had a little can to carry water. Some brought
chaplets with them to hang on the cross. A little girl was carefully winding garlands around and across a little grave. I asked her for whom she wove her "kranz." She replied, "fur unsern Heinrich.” When she had carefully done or work, she walked around it with a slight quiver of emotion on features and wondered whether he saw her, and then turned to me saying "Nicht wahr, wir schen ihn wieder!" I pressed her little hand in mine, and told her of the "Spirit Home" in our Father's house, where all the good shall "meet again ne'er to sever," and how happy the meeting of His children there, and of their everlasting, unbroken fellowship, where there shall be no more
Sinning nor sighing
This daily bestowment of affection upon the memory of the dead, tenders and soothes the hearts of the living. It makes the grave a spot of pleasure rather than grief, a thin veil which seperates time from eternity. It enables them to treat the departed as those who are still members of their household, with whom they still can enjoy a communion as real as when they were visibly with them, if they are "members of the same body." They are to them like those who have gone on a journey, and they can feel pleasure in the prospect of following them. They have only crossed the boundary, which
Like a narrow stream divides
The early Christians were in the habit of celebrating the days on which their friends died, as birth-day festivals. They would assemble around their graves on each returning anniversary, and sing hymns of praise to God, for having redeemed and triumphantly taken them to Himsel. So the Christian still can look into the grave; "Since Jesus has lain there, he dreads not its gloom." And there is a heavenly meaning in hanging a cornet of evergreen over the dust of the pious dead, or twining festive garlands around their turf.
LIKE snow that falls where waters glide,
Like stars that gild the night,
Smile forth with sweetest light.
Religion's rays no clouds obscure,
His heart may break with sorrow's stroke,
Like diamonds shining when they're broke,