Ottensen — Klopstocks Grave — The Palmaille — Altona — Religious Toleration — Avenue between Altona and Hamburg — Vandycks Landleben

Lockstedt, 28th June 1820.
MY DEAR J****,
CONJECTURING from its direction that the linden-bordered road near Stelling, to which Ialluded in my last, led in the direction of Ottensen, I determined to make a pilgrimage by that route to the grave of Klopstock — that revered poet, from the study of whose works we have often derived so much profit and enjoyment. Taking, therefore, a volume of poems as my sole companion, I set out after breakfast this morning; and — after an agreeable walk of about three or four miles, chiefly through cornfields, grassy lanes, and by-paths — at length reached the village.

After wandering up and down for some time, I inquired of a peasant girl the way to the church. She asked me whether I were in quest of the Christian or Jewish church, — at the same time pointing out the synagogue, which is nothing more than a large thatched cabin. Having ascertained the course I was to pursue, I had proceeded only a few steps when I was accosted byayoung soldier, who proved tobe a Prussian, — and, owing to the difference between his pronunciation and that to which I had been habituated, I found great difficulty in understanding him. After much puzzling, I learned that he was in search of Rendvill’s or Rainvill’s gardens, — which overhang the Elbe, and are the most celebrated resort of the tea and coffee drinkers of Altona and Hamburg. As I was unable to direct him, and he expressed a wish to see whatever was interesting in the vicinity, I took him with me to the church-yard. — although I did not anticipate that a young man, probably accustomed to war and its concomitant horrors, would be a companion likely to share the feelings with which I was about to visit the hallowed spot, which just then appeared in view. I was therefore not a little gratified when, after an abortive attempt to read Klopstock’s epitaph, he bade me and the church-yard farewell.

It is rather extraordinary that in the account which the late amiable Elizabeth Smith has given of this place of sepulture, as well as in all others that I have seen, the grave is described as overshadowed by „a noble lime-tree.“ The tree (of which I of course purloined a little,) does not exhibit the slightest affinity to the linden, although I cannot with certainty pronounce of what kind it is. The sepulchre stands near the entrance of the church, and is inclosed by a neat wooden paling. On the upper part of the stone two sheaves are carved, under which is inscribed the following sentence: —

Saat von Gott gesäet dem Tage der Garben zu reifen*).

*) “Seed sown by GOD to ripen for the day of the sheaves.”

Beneath this is the figure of Urania, with the eyes directed upward — leaning on the cross, and supported by a pedestal. On the lower part of the stone is the following epitaph, written by Stollberg: —

  [        Bei seiner Meta und bei seinem Kinde ruhet
  [        Friedrich Gottlieb Klopstock.
  [        Er ward geboren d. 2ten Juli, 1724
  [        Er starb d. 14. Marz, 1803.
  [        Deutsche, nahet mit Ehrfurcht und mit Liebe
  [        Der Hülle eines größten Dichters;
  [        Nahet, ihr Christen, mit Wehmut und mit Liebe,
  [        Der Ruhestäte des heiligen Sängers,
  [        Dessen Gesang Leben und Tod Jesum Christum pries.
  [        Er sang den Menschen, menschlich den Ewigen,
  [        Den Mittler Gottes, unten am Throne liegt
  [        Sein großer Lohn ihm, eine goldne
  [        Heilige Schale voll Christentränen.
  [        Seine zweite liebende und geliebte Gattin,
  [        Johanna Elizabeth, setzte diesen Stein,
  [        Anbetend den der für uns lebte, starb,
  [        Begraben ward, und auferstand*).

*) The following translation is borrowed from „Fragments in Prose and Verse, by Elizabeth Smith,“ Vol. 2. „By the side of his Meta and his child, rests Frederic Gottlieb Klopstock. He was born July 2d, 1724; he died March 14, 1803. Germans, approach, with veneration and love, the relics of your greatest poet. Approach, ye Christians, with grief and heavenly joy, the resting-place of the sacred songster, whose song, life, and death praised Jesus Christ. He sang to men, in human strains, the Eternal, the Divine Mediator. Near the throne is placed his great reward, a golden holy cup filled with Christian tears. His second loving and beloved spouse, Johanna Elizabeth, erected this marble to the guide of her youth, her friend, her husband. She waits in tears the hour that will, where death shall be no more,where the Lord will vjipe off the tears of his beloved, unite her with him and those whom she loved: adore him, who for us lived, died, and arose from the dead.“ This is strikingly incorrect. Two epitaphs, inscribed on distinct stones, are here confounded together. The passage printed in Italics is in fact a part of the inscription on Meta's head-stone. See the next note.

You may observe that the four lines Er sang, &c. are Alcaic, a metre which Klopstock adopted in some of his odes. On another head-stone, close to his, the following words are inscribed :—

  [        Margaret Klopstock
  [        Erwartet da wo der Tod nicht ist
  [        Ihren Freund, ihren Geliebten, ihren Mann,
  [        Den sie so sehr liebt,
  [        Und von dem sie so sehr geliebt wird.
  [        Aber hier, aus diesem Grabe,
  [        Wollen wir mit einander auferstehn:
  [        Du mein Klopstock, und ich, und unser Sohn,
  [        Den ich dir nicht gebären konnte.
  [        Betet den an,
  [        Der auch gestorben, begraben und auferstanden ist.
  [        Sie ward geboren den 18. März, 1728,
  [        Verheiratet den 10. Junius, 1754,
  [        Und starb den 28 November, 1758.
  [        Ihr Sohn schlummert in
  [        ihrem Arme*).

*) The epitaph on Metas head-stone may be thus translated; — “Margaret Klopstock waits there, where death exists not, her friend, her beloved, her husband, whom she loves so much, and by whom she is so much beloved. But here, out of this grave, will we rise one with another; thou, my Klopstock, and I, and our son, whom I could not bear thee. Adore him who has died, been buried, and arisen. She was born the 18th March, 1728; married the 10th June, 1754; and died the 28th November, 1758. Her son slumbers within her arm.”

Johanna von Windthem, Klopstock's second wife, is still living, and resides somewhere in Hamburg. We are determined to discover her abode if possible, and to pay her a visit before leaving Germany.

Ottensen appears to be a suburb of Altona, but is in reality a village of much more ancient date than the town to which it is attached. Previously to the founding of Altona, the ground on which it stands served as a pasture to the Voigtey, or “manor” (if I may employ the word for want of one more appropriate,) of Ottensen. This name, equivalent to Ottenshorn, or “Ottos Horn,” was imposed by a Count Otto in 1330. The church-yard joins the famous Palmaille [“Pall-Mall”] of Altona. Along the middle of this street, which is nearly half a mile in length, runs a shady walk, bordered on each side by a double row of lofty trees — oaks, lindens, and even acacias. The promenade is delightful under these trees; which, in some places interlacing their branches above, exclude the rain and the too fervid rays of the sun. Gardenchairs are placed at convenient intervals. The houses are handsome; — and in one part this fine street, which is very elevated, is traversed by another that has a sudden descent to the Elbe — opening a vista of that noble river, and the country on the Hanoverian side beyond it.

Nothing to a stranger can be more striking than the contrast between Hamburg and Altona. The former lies in a low situation; the houses are old, and the streets narrow: — the latter is built on the summit and declivity of a hill; the houses are new compared with those of Hamburg, while the streets are, for the most part, wider and more airy. But the strongest point of dissimilarity consists in the bustle and activity of the one compared with the silence and desolation of the other. Altona is a mere „wilderness of building“ — and I almost literally realized the fable of AEsop, by perambulating street after street in search of a man, and that at mid-day. As the upper part of the town presented only a few straggling individuals, and I wished to see something of the inhabitants, I descended to the quay and adjoining market-place, — which I of course found somewhat more 'alive,' as the Germans express it. This unaccountable vacuity of the streets may contribute to give them an artificial breadth. On a part of the quay called the Elbbrücke [“Elbe-bridge”] I observed an iron poor-box, on one side of which the following words were painted: — Ehe du die Stadt verlässt erquicke die Armen und Gott wird dein Schutz sein [“Before you leave the town relieve the poor, and God will be your safeguard”]. As I had no immediate intention of embarking, the demand was inapplicable to me, and I was walking away when my eyes were arrested by another inscription: — “Der Herr hat Gnade zu meiner Reise gegeben. 1 Buch Mos. 24t. v. 56“ [„ The Lord hath prospered my way. — Genesis, ch. 24. v. 56“]. This appeal was irresistible: — I dropped my mite into the box reading a third sentence intended, I suppose, exclusively for donors: — “Der Herr segne deinen Ausgang und Eingang.—Psalter 128. v. 8“*) [„ The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in.“—Psalm 128. v. 8]. The contrivance was ingenious, and calculated to influence the feelings of travellers.

*) The reference on the poor-box is incorrect. The passage occurs in the 121st Psalm, verse 8.

From the haunts of the living I went in quest of the scarcely more silent abodes of the dead, — and spent about an hour in ruminating upon the tomb-stones in the burial-ground of the Church of the Holy Ghost, which I had marked down for a visit while passing through Altona yesterday morning. Many of them are distinguished by figurative emblems of stone or clay, — such as a stump of a tree wreathed with vine-leaves; a truncated column, with the upper part lying on a pedestal beside it; a chained sheep; &c. There was one inscription in an extraordinary character employed by the Jews, but bearing a very slight resemblance to the ordinary Hebrew letters. It consisted chiefly of squares and segments of squares, with or without a point in the middle. But what chiefly attracted my observation were several small head-stones, bearing merely initials, a date, or a christian name, — as “1818,” “H. R.” « 1814,' “Hans,” “Peter.” How strong the contrast between these simple memorials and the unmerited and impious panegyrics, so frequently emblazoned upon the sepulchre!

  [        Kein Marmorbild, kein tatenreicher Stein,
  [        Vor dem errötend sich die Wahrheit wendet,
  [        Entehrte des Entschlummerten Gebein,
  [        Den eitler Größe Schimmer nie geblendet. *)
  [          [                  Matthisson.

* Literally:— “No marble statue, no deed-emblazoning stone — before which Truth turns blushing away—dishonoured the bones of the slumberer, whom the glare of vain greatness never dazzled.”

Neither the virtues of the deceased, nor the sorrows of the survivors, were here obtruded upon public notice: but I doubt not that, if it had been the sabbath morn, I should have seen the tear glisten in the eyes of many of those passing by, on their way to the house of prayer, — as a hasty glance revealed the well-known initials, or the date of the fatal year.

Altona was founded about the time of the reformation, at which period those who adhered strictly to the old religion conceived themselves obliged to withdraw from Hamburg, — but, being unwilling totally to abandon all the advantages which attended a residence in that rich trading town, determined to colonize themselves at a little distance from its walls. In 1545 the new village was burnt; and such was the jealousy of the parent city, that the Hamburgers petitioned Hans Barner, the Landdrost of Pinneberg, not to allow its re-edification. This magistrate, however, answered evasively — that permission had already been given, and the timber already cut. In 1643, some differences arose between the Hamburgers and Christian IV. of Denmark, relative to the possession of Altona, which terminated to the disadvantage of the former. On the 13th of August 1664, Altona (which, from being originally a Dorf or secondary village, had been, in 1604, advanced to the rank of a Flechen or primary one by Count Ernest,) at length obtained the rights of township from Frederick III. of Denmark. This monarch was particularly attached to the Altonese; and bestowed many marks of his favour on the new town, notwithstanding the vigorous opposition of the Hamburgers,—who vainly appealed to the emperor in vindication of their ancient right — that there should be no strong hold suffered to exist within two miles of the city. On the 9th of January 1713, this town was again burnt to the ground. A frightful detail of the horrors which ensued is given in Voltaire's Charles XII.

Altona has ever been remarkable for religious toleration. In 1601—on an application made by the Count of Manssfeld to Count Ernest of Pinneberg — the catholics, who had emigrated from Hamburg, obtained the privilege of a free exercise of their religion; and, in 1602, a rich merchant from Florence, Alexander de la Roxa, built — in conjunction with some merchants of Antwerp — a chapel for persons of the Romish persuasion. The Portuguese Jews established themselves here in 1611, — and the reception which they experienced encouraged their High-German and Polish brethren to remove hither also. In 1612, there was at Altona a Walloon congregation of French reformers, from the Low Countries; and the Mennonites —who became settled at Hamburg in 1630 — obtained, in 1634, the free exercise of their religion at Altona. But, what is more remarkable, the Jews have here actually attained the rights of citizenship — a phenomenon which furnishes a practical answer to the question of the poet:—

  [        Tribes of the wandering foot and weary breast,
  [        How shall ye flee away and be at rest!
  [          [          [        Lord Byron

Indeed, the extent of the religious toleration which prevails at Altona may be well attested by an enumeration of the different places of worship, which are as follows: — An Evangelical Lutheran Church; that of the Holy Ghost, also Lutheran; a German Reformed Church; a French Reformed Church; a Roman Catholic Chapel; a Meetinghouse for Mennonites; another for Moravians; a Synagogue for the Jews in general; and another for Portuguese Jews, to which a school is attached. Of these buildings the first is the most conspicuous. It stands in the centre of the town, and has a very lofty spire.

Not far from one of the gates stands a Lancasterian institution; and several handsome assembly-houses are built along the short road leading to Hamburg. One of these — the Joachims-Stadt — exhibits the appearance of a fine public building, being supported by ten large white columns in front. Beside this road, rope-dancers, fire-eaters, itinerant show-men, &c. have pitched their tents. The face of the country all about this neighbourhood still bears traces of the devastation, which took place during the French occupation of Hamburg. The trees which lined the thoroughfares have completely disappeared, and the present houses have all been built within these few years. On approaching the Hamburg gate, I saw, to my great surprise, the word “Shamrock” painted on the show-board of a tavern kept “by Widow Collins.” My nationality had almost prompted me to enter and dine, when the preceding part of the notification — “Rose, Thistle, and”— which a tree had hidden, became revealed — and deter mined me rather to speculate on a beef-steak at Mrs. Battys celebrated “Restoration” in the Admiralitäts-Straße [“Admiralty-Street”], on which I had long meditated an inroad, attracted by the ingenious orthography — “beef-stak.“ This word Restoration (meaning “refreshment”) is never omitted on the signs of the Hamburg taverns, whether the inscription be in English or German.

This evening I have been with a party at the theatre, the structure and appointments of which are of very moderate pretensions. One half of the pit is even unprovided with seats. At the four corners of the house are placed the busts of Schiller, Goethe, Iffland, and Schroeder. The piece was Vandychs Landleben [“Vandykes Rural Life”] — an interesting little drama by Kind, which was tolerably well performed. While taking a survey of the house, I observed the word Not-Türe conspicuouslypainted up and down the corridors of the boxes. Upon inquiring, I found that those doors led to a sort of fire-escapes, or passages which afford more ready egress in case of fire than the ordinary avenues.
Yours, &c. &c.