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LEGENDS OF THE RHINE
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS FROM PAINTINGS BY CELEBRATED ARTISTS.
HOURSCH & BECHSTEDT, PUBLISHERS.
Nach dem Gemalde von E. Steinle
The Publishers desire to thank Mr. Andrew Mitchell and Mr. H. J. Findlay, Edinburgh
for valuable assistance in the preparation of the new English Edition.
"O, the pride of the German heart is this noble river! And right it is; for of all the rivers of this beautiful earth there is none so beautiful as this."
Last year I made the journey between Mainz and Bonn on one of our splendid Rhine steamers. Our vessel glided along like a great water-bird. Above rose mountains, castles, and ruins, and over all the sun shone brightly from a blue August sky. It was twelve years since I had visited the scenes of my youth, and every Rhinelander will understand with what pleasure I saw again those smiling landscapes arrayed in their summer beauty. As an author also, my heart was gladdened when I observed my favourite book with the significant words "3rd Edition" printed on it. The book was entitled "Rheinsagen", and, as I stood by the steamer-bookstall, I overheard the salesman recommending it to the passengers as the best collection of Rhine legends on the market. When, in au insinuating manner, he recommended it to myself, I showed him my card, and we had a quiet conversation. My new friend insisted that he merely spoke the truth about the book, and when I asked for some information about the English edition, the good fellow fairly beamed, and said that the English and Americans were very good customers indeed. Some ten years ago I had presented this book to my homeland as the first-fruits of my muse, and this, as the first and best criticism of the English edition of my favourite production rejoiced my heart. I gave the friendly bookseller two of my best cigars, and wandering back to my deck-chair in the best of spirits, soon became absorbed in the splendid and ever-changing panorama around.
Then the sound of a melodious female voice speaking the English language fell on my ears. I looked round. A girl was bending over a book, and entertaining her father and mother by reading something of special interest and beauty. I listened and recognised some of my own sentences rendered into the speech of Shakespeare. These three were learning to feel the glamour of the Lorelei legend as I had felt it. I confess my pulse beat quicker as I heard my poor endeavours highly praised, and I could not refrain from advancing and thanking the young reader for her kindly appreciation. She seemed delighted when she discovered that I was the author, and rose to greet me in the most amiable manner. I complimented the travellers on the fact, that during the last century the Rhine seemed to have become for the English people that home of romance which we Germans sought to find in Italy. The girl smiled, and remarked that I must pay that compliment to her mother in particular, as she was by birth an Englishwoman. But the head of the family hastened to add that among Americans, whom he might speak for, the enthusiasm for the beauties of the Rhine was not less than among their Anglo-Saxon cousins. These two nations which are bound by so many ties to each other, and also to ourselves, were thus represented before me. The English-speaking people undoubtedly form by far the largest contingent of our Rhine travellers, and it was pleasant indeed to receive so fine a testimonial to the beauties of my homeland.
We had a most interesting conversation, and I was not a little moved, as I observed that these foreigners who had travelled over half the world, and had seen the grandeur of Switzerland and the charms of Italy, should have such an unaffected admiration for our grand old stream. I am rather sorry for those who neglect the Rhine. "Aren't Lohengrin and Siegfried, immortalised by the great Master of Bayreuth, also heroic figures in your Rhine legends?" remarked the young Anglo-American enthusiastically. It was the first time I had seriously thought of this, and it gave me much joy. "And what Byron says in his Childe Harold --
mighty spots may rise, more glaring shine,
"is just as true to-day as it was a hundred years ago," added the mother.
I was indeed deeply touched, and my thoughts travelled back to the days of "long, long ago" when as a tittle chap in my native Bonn, I had first listened with interest to the melodious voices of the golden-haired daughters of old Albion who came in large numbers to reside in the famous university town.
As I separated from my friends at the foot of the Drachenfels I gave them a small present to keep as a memento of the Rhine and one of its poets. And, to the good God who planted "the desire to wander" in the human breast, I addressed the pious wish: "Send us many such from over the North Sea, and from beyond the great water, to our beloved Rhineland". So long as they love our native stream with its castle-crowned steeps, they will preserve a warm corner in their hearts for their Teutonic kinsmen.
München, Mai 1906.