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Cold winds are blowing,
Our place is preparing,
A home with the worm.
Onward we're flying,
The hour of dying,
Unseen creeps near
Alone we must go,
To bliss or to woe,
From all we hold dear.
The blest angels sing,
The tortured are weeping, And wailing and threeping, In Hades' abyss
Lost souls of perdition,
Gloats fiercely o'er this.
Though beauteous the earth,
Wise only when kneeling,
With penitent feeling,
Learning the Word
Throughout days so fleeting,
For Mercy entreating,
And praising the LORD.
CONTINENTAL RAMBLES.-LETTER XII.
I said when I passed over our visit to Cologne, that I would return and give you some account of the Belgian route, and I am the more anxious to do so, because it is so easy of access from England, and those who have not much money or time to spare, may in the course of a fortnight, and at a smaller cost than their usual summer excursion at home entails, see a great deal and learn a great deal, especially if it is their first trip.
The route I should advise would be Ostend, Bruges, Ghent, Antwerp, Liege, Aix-la-Chapelle, Cologne, thence to Brussels by Namur, from Brussels to Tournay and Lille, and home by way of Dunkirk. I mention Ostend first as taking the traveller into Belgium at once, but it is scarcely worth seeing in itself, and Dunkirk, as being a quaint old French town, and its neighbourhood, if there is time to linger, is worth a longer acquaintance, especially about Cassel.
But I must come home my own way now, that is from Cologne, where we spent twenty-four hours, very little of which was given either to rest or meals. But our time was limited, in consideration of which we departed from our usual practice, and hired a cicerone, so that we might not lose time in passing from one object of interest to another. One bit of advice en passant, if you spend many days at Cologne, instead of one, go and sleep at Bonn, and come in by railway in the morning.
Cologne is as dirty and odorous as ever, its own farfamed waters having failed to purify itself. Our guide was a little bandy-legged, ignorant fellow, who was at his devotions in a church at which we were looking early in the morning. He saw we were strangers, so, having an eye to business, he started to his feet, and offered his services for a couple of francs; and well he earned them— trudging about with us till quite dusk, when, to the oftrepeated question, "Où irons-nous à présent ?" he replied, "à l'hotel :" so to the hotel we returned, tired out with all
we had seen,—the matchless cathedral, with all its treasures; S. Ursula, and the bones of the eleven thousand virgins; S. Geryon's, where the bones of the Theban legion adorn the walls; S. Peter's, enriched with Rubens' picture of the great Apostle's crucifixion, &c. We did not omit the museum, where are some quaint old pictures, of the early German school, which interested us very much.
The railway was not open in the year we made this tour, so we hired a carriage to convey us from Cologne to Aix, and travelled by night, to save time. However, the night passed not without several incidents which banished all sleep. First of all, our voiturier lost his way, and did not discover it till we had proceeded some miles on the wrong road, and though he had found out he was wrong, he had not the least idea how to recover his track; so we had to stand still till some passenger came by to direct us.
Our next halt was at a little place called Bergheim : here the horses had a rest, and we some supper at a little inn, the host of which spoke English well, and was not long before he informed us that he was a Waterloo soldier. He produced his medal, and would have kept us all night talking about the Great Duke, whose name the inn bore. He had, he said, entertained the Duke once at breakfast, when he was in that neighbourhood; and he showed us the Duke's card, and told us he had invited his host to come and see him, if ever he came to England. He added, that he was going to be married in a few days, and he thought he could not do better than take a trip to England, to see the Duke again.
Our next adventure was before Juliers, a fortified town on our route, where we were refused admittance, and sent from one gate to the other whilst permission was obtained for us to pass through; which was at last granted, and about 8 o'clock, a. m., we reached Aix, where we breakfasted, and straightway proceeded to business.
The Cathedral, of course, was our first object, the nave of which is curious, being octagonal. It was built by Charlemagne, in imitation of the Holy Sepulchre, and intended as his own place of burial. It was destroyed by
the Normans, and rebuilt on the original plan by Otho III., who removed the remains of the Emperor to Vienna,with the exception, it would seem, of a bone or two, which are still preserved here, amongst a multitude of other treasures. Amongst other curiosities at Aix, is the fountain of Elisa, containing a larger proportion of sulphur than any other known mineral spring; its temperature is 143° Fahr. The poor people here use it in its natural state for washing,-the sulphur serving the purpose of soap, and the heat of the water saving fuel.
In the evening, we again hired a carriage, and travelled to Liege, where we spent a few hours, next day. We passed the Prussian frontier, between the two places, and received a hint that a bribe would secure our luggage from being searched. Liege is a busy manufacturing town (there is a good supply of coals in the neighbourhood which may account for this,) and this feature contrasts it with its neighbouring towns not unpleasantly; as, though it is less rich in churches and public buildings of interest (saving always the Palais de Justice, the scene of some of Sir Walter Scott's vivid descriptions in Quentin Durward,) it has a character of its own, and it has the advantage over any town on this route in scenery. The views are extensive and beautiful, and you can either proceed to Brussels by rail, or—which is still prettier-up the Meuse to Namur by steam-boat.
Having mentioned both these places, we must pass on at once to Antwerp, a city of surpassing interest, and quite worth a visit, if one could go no further. Here first we learnt to understand and appreciate Rubens; his pictures in England, as a rule, being, as far as I know them, of so very different a character from any I ever saw on the other side the Channel. Then there is the Cathedral, the numberless churches, the public buildings, the quays, the museum, and the town itself, with its endless ringing of bells and throng of people: for Antwerp is still a large and busy town, though its trade is not what it was.
Pass we on to Ghent, which by contrast seems dull and tame; though it, too, carries on trade, and has its objects of interest in its cathedral of S. Bavon, its Beguinage, its Musée, &c. The marriage of Maximilian
with Mary of Burgundy, was solemnized here, and the Emperor Charles V. was born here; and at Bruges, where we will next proceed, we shall find Mary's tomb, and that of her father, Charles the Bold.1
The ancient glories of this town have departed. It was for many years the residence of the Courts of Flanders, and the resort of traders from all parts of the world; and in the 15th century, the Dukes of Burgundy fixed their court there. Its streets are now deserted, and its population mostly paupers; but for that reason, perhaps, it retains more of its old quaint appearance than many of the other Belgic towns where modern improvements have crept in.
Before quitting Belgium and its churches, I must not omit one striking feature which is universal throughout the country; I mean the carved oak pulpits. S. Bavon, at Ghent, boasts one of marble; but with that exception I scarcely remember one church that had not this singular and beautiful appendage. They are so large that the preacher is almost lost in them, and are of most elaborate workmanship,-representing, generally, some incident from the Bible: Adam and Eve driven out of Paradise, at S. Gudule, at Brussels; the calling of S. Andrew, at Antwerp, and others too numerous to mention.
As I recommend you, in the tour I have sketched, to include Tournay and Lille, I must tell you something about them, instead of proceeding at once, as most people do, either from Bruges to Ostend, or vice versa, as the case may be.
Not that there is anything very striking in either of these towns; though both are worth looking at when you are so near-Tournay, for the sake of a handsome Cathedral, with five towers, and both, as cheerful, bustling places, with handsome shops where fancy things may be purchased, to bring home to English friends. If you have time for a longer stay, and a little quiet, Cassel is a cheap and delightful halt, whence a few hours and a trifling sum will take you home.
1 See Baines' "Tales of the Empire."