Road from Hamburg to Lübeck — Bargteheide — Oldeslohe— Approach to Lübeck — The Holstein-Gate — The Holstein-Street — Twilight in Lübeck — Exterior of the Dome- Church

Lübeck, 3d July 1820.
MY DEAR J****,
IT is midnight — and yet I cannot retire to rest without giving vent to the feelings which ancient Lübeck (the epithet is hardly misapplied —) has awakened in my mind! Although we did not arrive here until evening had begun to melt into twilight, I have already traversed a considerable part of the town, — flitting along dusky and desolate streets, and the still more gloomy precincts of churches embosomed by lofty trees. I have this night, after the lapse of many years, experienced something of those sensations, with which in early youth we used to pore over the mystic romance or dreary legend of Germany or Italy — sensations, the expression of which is ridiculed by the insensible, but to which (visionary and short-lived as they are,) the heart clings with infatuation, until the petrifying influence of the world and its realities have passed upon it!

Our journey from the vicinity of Hamburg — which occupied twelve hours, on an average of three miles an hour — possessed but little interest. The road is in general indifferent, and the scenery unattractive. At Herbsthude, one of the first villages we passed, the postilion was obliged to drive through a channel of the river Alster; and the carriage-wheels sunk to such a depth that the water entered our trunk, and completely wetted its contents. At Bargteheide we stopped to take refreshment. The Diele here even surpassed in size that I noticed in a former letter — affording in one angle stabling for no fewer than six horses, opposite to which was a coop for poultry. The frugal fare laid before us consisted of nothing more than Schinken, or raw ham, with tea and black bread, — together with the indispensable adjunct of a Schnapps or dram for the driver. During the delay which occurred here, I repaired to the churchyard, — and amused myself by rambling among the tomb-stones, and contemplating their rustic devices. The most conspicuous I met with exhibited rude representations of the Descent from the Cross, and of the Resurrection. It was dated 1736.

Our next pause was at Oldeslohe. This is a handsome town, belonging to Denmark. It is situated on the river Trave, and distinguished for its baths and salt-works. The latter were established so early as the middle of the twelfth century, by Count Adolphus II. of Holstein, and proved so detrimental to the rival works at Lüneburg, that the count became eventually involved in some very sharp bickerings with Henry the Lion, their redoubted proprietor, — to whose gests I shall probably have frequent occasion to advert during my peregrinations. Here a toll of 2s. 9d. was exacted from us, called Stationsgeld [“station-money”], for liberty to drive through without taking a relay of Danish horses. We also had to pay from time to time what is termed Baumgeld [“boom-money”], analogous to turnpike. The trunk of a small tree, lopped of its branches, is placed across the road — being supported by an upright post on each side, on one of which it moves up and down as on a swivel. The charge for elevating the boom is only a penny for a carriage with two horses. After leaving Oldeslohe we followed to some distance the windings of the Trave, which was like us travelling on to Lübeck. When within two or three miles of our destination, the postillion drove into one of those immense ground-floor apartments I have described, to procure water and black bread for the horses. During our delay the opening of that beautiful drama of Kotzebues, Gustavus Vasa, was present to my mind in vivid colours. The scene is, you may recollect, a Dorfschenke unweit Lübeck. — Abend [“A village publichouse near Lübeck. — Evening”]. The words too, spoken by Born, not far from the beginning — Das ist ein derber Regen [“That is a heavy rain”] — were realizing to our cost, as a close and heavy shower was falling.

At last the spires of this antique burgh appeared, towering above the green and wooded rampart which environs it. I was surprised at the length of road we had to pursue, at no great distance from this fortification, before we reached the gate by which we were to enter. Here we were delighted by a succession of picturesque objects. It is now the season of an annual solemnity, which continues for several days, — and, by combining useful occupation with festive enjoyment, enhances the value of each. Among other matters a general inspection of the charity-schools takes place, during which the children walk in procession through the streets. The Vogelschießen, or “shooting of the popinjay,” forms a part of the entertainment.

I was much interested to find this ancient English and Scottish observance, as you may see it detailed in Old Mortality, still existing here: for what can be more gratifying to the antiquary (or the would-be antiquary, such as I profess myself to be,) than to light upon the fading traces of obsolete customs — especially in situations different from those to which he had been wont to assign them? I shall ever remember the unqualified pleasure with which, one evening about two years since, I witnessed in the town of Blessington, county of Wicklow, a faint exemplification of the dance of the hobby-horse — an old English amusement, for a description of which I refer you to Strutt's Queenhoo Hall. But I am forgetting myself and Lübeck.

The approaches to the Holstein-gate are planted with lofty trees, which form magnificent vistas, — of which we caught a glimpse, as we swept round a turn of the road which led to the gate. Along one of these avenues, as far as the eye could reach, a multitude of people were assembled, „all, all abroad to gaze“ — some promenading under the trees; others grouped together about the mountebanks and itinerant venders, who had intrenched themselves beside the foot-path; while a third class, strolling and halting alternately, seemed more engrossed with the abstract contemplation of the creature man — exhibited on an occasion like the present under so many modifications, and in so many disguises — than with the proper allurements of the festival itself. The following lines, put into the mouth of Faustus on a somewhat similar occasion, convey a lively picture of the scene I have attempted to describe :—

          Aus dem hohlen finstren Tor
          Dringt ein buntes Gewimmel hervor.
          Jeder sonnt sich heute so gern.
          * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * *
          * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * *

          Aus niedriger Häuser dumpfen Gemächern,
          Aus Handwerks- und Gewerbes-Banden,
          Aus dem Druck von Giebeln und Dächern,
          Aus der Straßen quetschender Enge
          Aus der Kirchen ehrwürdiger Nacht
          Sind sie alle ans Licht gebracht*).

*) The following translation is taken from an excellent article, intituled „The Faustus of Goethe,“ which appeared in Blackwoods Edinburgh Magazine for June 1820:—

          The town, from its black dungeon gates forth pours,
          In thousand parties, the gay multitude,
          All happy, all indulging in the sunshine!

          * * * * * * * * * * * * * * ** * * * * * *
          * * * * * * * * * * from chambers damp
          Of poor mean houses — from consuming toil

But the objects which were immediately to succeed in the panorama were of a very different description. We left the mirth and j ollity behind, and drove on towards the gate — passing between some mutilated statues of heathen deities of the Grecian mythology. Before entering, I was obliged to give a statement of my name, vocation, and birth-place; and also to specify the hotel at which I purposed to lodge; which useful piece of intelligence will be inserted in the newspaper, and circulated throughout the forty sovereignties of Germany. I was much struck with the appearance of the Holstein-gate. Surmounted by two frowning towers, and curiously embellished with antique sculptures of scowling warriors, it retains all that feudal sternness which characterises the architectural remains of the dark ages in this country. We had to pass under a second gate, before we reached the bridge which conducts immediately into the city. The Holstein-Straße[“Holstein-Street”], by which we entered, is a steep acclivity, and generally so wet and plashy as to furnish the

          Laborious — from the work-yard and the shop —
          From the imprisonment of walls and roofs,
          And the oppression of confining streets,
          And from the solemn twilight of dim churches,
          All are abroad — all happy in the sun.

upshot of the nurse’s objurgations on slovenly children: — Du hist so schmutzig als wenn Du die Holstein-Straße hinauf gekrochenhattest [“You are as dirty as if you were after creeping up the Holstein-street”] — an argument, by the by, in favour of the general cleanliness of the town. In ascending this street, I observed a number of the female inhabitants — both matrons and spinsters — seated before their doors, enjoying the cool of the evening, and for the most part busily employed in sewing or knitting. It had a novel and primitive appearance. After establishing my travelling-companions at the Stadt-Hamburg [“City of Hamburg,”] I sallied forth — determined, notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, to explore some part of the town. Nothing can, to a foreigner, be more impressive than a walk in the dusk through Liibeck. The antique air of the houses, — the desolation of the streets, — the lofty trees which overshadow the churchyards, — and the more lofty spires which rise above them, — thrill almost to shuddering. I first visited the precincts of what I have just been informed is the DomKirche, or Cathedral. It was now nearly dark, — and the gloomy effect of the scene around was considerably heightened when, after fancying myself quite alone, I perceived a few paces from me some figures — “dimly seen,“ and completely mute. These were the inmates of a house adjoining the churchyard, who were seated at the entrance of a dark alley, along which I made my way until I reached the banks of the river Trave. I then struck into a street which led me again towards the same fabric. At the head of this street I sat down upon a bench under a row of lindens, and soon became buried in thought — as Ireland, and the friends from whom I had lately separated, occurred to my imagination. On returning however to my hotel, a meeting with some of our relatives who had been anxiously expecting our arrival, dispelled my vapours. They have just taken their leave, and allowed me to write to you; which I was anxious to do, as I must devote the entire of to-morrow to visiting and perambulating. Indeed, I foresee that I shall be necessitated to despatch the greater part of my correspondence, at this hour of silence and repose — so multifarious and absorbing are the occupations of the day. The watchman has just announced the birth of a new morning, and I shall therefore abruptly subscribe myself
          Yours, &c. &e.