The RhineThe Rhine 1

The leading rivers of our globe have played a most important part in its development. They are more than mere currents of descending water. Ideas float along their surface. They have ever been the great boundaries of nations. They are the grand avenues of commerce. Their beds have been held sacred as the dwelling-places of gods. They form natural barriers to ambition, and halting-places for conquest. The destinies of mankind have, therefore, been determined by their channels. Their interest increases in proportion to the historic souvenirs which seem to mingle with their foam and murmur with their waves. In this sense one of the first among the world's great rivers is the noble Rhine. Others can boast of greater breadth and volume, a longer distance traversed to the sea, and even mightier commerce borne upon their waves; but none, except the Nile, is richer in historic memories, and even that, from its remote antiquity, cannot appeal so closely to our sympathies.

The Noble River

The Noble River.

The Rhine is the great avenue of central Europe, and on its silver thread, for seven hundred miles, are strung the pearls of love, adventure, romance, tragedy, and comedy, till one may fancy it a necklace of transcendent value, rich, like the "page of knowledge," with the "spoils of time." It is, in fact, its constant succession of beautiful and historic objects, each crowned with its appropriate legend, that gives to this great stream of Germany its matchless charm. Viewed as a river merely, the Hudson is in some respects superior to the Rhine; but add to the latter the legends and the memories of two thousand years, and the scales turn. What wonder, therefore, that the Rhine is to the Germans what the Nile was to the Egyptians, - a source of national pride and delight, a never-ending theme of song and story. Within its depths are treasures of golden memories. Let down the net of fancy at almost any point, and you can bring up gems of greater value to the world than any pearls that divers find. Two thousand years ago its name was as well known beside the Tiber as it is now along the Hudson. Navigable for more than six hundred miles through the very heart of Europe, its dominion has been battled for throughout the centuries. Its banks have echoed to the shouts of warlike Gauls, Teutons, Romans, Franks, and Normans, and on its placid surface have been cast the shadows of the world's great conquerors and chieftains, - Caesar, Attila, Charlemagne, Napoleon, and Von Moltke.

The Castle Bordered Rhine

The Castle-Bordered Rhine.

But to judge of the power and beauty of the Rhine one should not view it at random, but rather mark its origin and trace its growth along that path which leads it from a mountain rivulet to an imposing and majestic stream. To do this, we should go at the outset into the heart of Switzerland, and stand before an Alpine glacier, which, like some awful prehistoric monster, creeps forth in menace from a sea of ice, supplied from distant peaks, whose summits pierce the azure of the sky. There is a practical as well as a poetic side to these grand glaciers. They are not merely the everlasting drapery of the Alps, folding them summer and winter in their robes of ice. They are, also, the great storehouses from which the rivers of Europe are replenished; for, from the many wounds inflicted on them by the arrows of the sun, their frigid life-blood oozes fast, forming a multitude of little torrents which finally unite to constitute one glittering stream. It is in this way that the Rhine is born. The traveler can behold it at the glacier's terminus, leaving exult-ingly its ice-bound cradle, as though rejoicing in the thought of freedom. The tourist must have little imagination who can stand beside this rivulet, destined to gain, erelong, such vast proportions, and not compare it to a human life: both at the start so tiny and helpless, so easily inclined in one way or another; yet fated, later on, perhaps to win the admiration of the world, change, it may be, the history of nations, and ultimately be lost in the two oceans, - one of Time, the other of Eternity.

The Rhine At Oberwesel

The Rhine At Oberwesel.