"Cologne" [essay]
 
And this is the birthplace of Rubens! 1 Sink these
French bad roads, a long days journey over them,
under a burning sun, together with a peram‐

bulation on a damp evening at Aix‐la‐Chapelle,
so knocked me up, that I was forced to diet
it and quiet it, and could not stir out 2 to see
Rubensʼ last picture, the masterpiece of the mas
ter, the crucifixion of St Peter, bequeated by,
him at his death to his native city, 3 and, yet
more, his birthchamber.
There is, in many, in most, of the pictures of Ru
bens
, and that even in his most sacred subjects
magnificent as they are viewed as paintings
only, an unholiness, a cast of Bacchanaliane
revelry, to say the least, an unpleasingness, that
does him dishonour; 4 But there a few, a cho‐
sen few, of his pictures, which the master hath
poured his whole soul into, and the produc
tion of one of which, were enough to repay a
lifetime of labour with immortality. There is a
picture, I neither know where it is, nor what
it is, but there is a picture, curtained up in one of
the royal palaces of France, the St Ambrosius, I
 
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think, kneeling before a crucifix. 5 There is one sin

gle ray of yellow light falling faintly upon the
grey hairs and holy features of the venerable saint
 
b
the rest is in obscurity, there is nothing more, not‐
hing to disturb either the eye or the mind, and
you feel calmed and subdued when you look u‐
pon that one solitary figure, as if in the presence
of a superior being. It is impossible to see
that picture, the reality is too striking. c and a
reality so hallowed and so beautiful, that when
the curtain is again drawn over the picture, you
feel as if awaking from a dream of heaven, d It
is by such pictures as this that Rubens has gain‐
ed his immortality, and it was, I believe such
a picture as this that I did not see at Cologne.
Then the disappointment made me worse, and
I could not stir out to see the room in which
he was born. But it donʼt signify talking.
Reader, beware of the Grosser Rheinberg hotel
at Cologne. Art thou a poet, a painter, or a
romancer? Imagine the Rhine, the beauti‐
ful, the mighty, the celebrated Rhine, fouler
 
e

than the Thames at London bridge, compress‐
ed into almost as narrow a channel, wash‐
ing dirty coal wharfs on the
th
on
e side; bogs. f
marshes, and coke manufactories on the other
yellow with mud from beneath, black with
tar and coaldust from above, loaded with clum
sy barges and dirty shipping, in short a vile
sordid, mercenary river, fit only for traffic,
high Germans, and low Dutchmen. g and you
will have some idea of the Rhine, as seen from
the bedroom windows of the
g
G
rosser Rheinberg 6
Oh, if thou wouldest see the Rhine as it may
be seen, as it ought to be seen, shut your eyes,
sleep your time away, do any thing but look a‐
bout you, till you get to Bonn, then walk out,
upon the terrace which looks forth over the
swell of the deep waters, to the dim outline of
the seven mountains, 7 and there gaze, & dream
and meditate, 2ndly. “Art thou an epicure?
Imagine mutton chops, which ought to have
been tough, but which age had made ten‐

der, accompanied by circular cakes of congealed
fat, denominated gravy, together with a kind
of brown ashes, apparently moistened, with,
whale oil (which I think they called fried po
tatoes,) as an addition to your feast, and you
have an idea of a dinner of the Grosser Rhein‐
berg. I have omitted one thing however,
 
h
which was really capital, the vinegar. They
called it Hock wine, certainly, but that don't
signify, you must not be led astray by
names in this part of the world. However,
good vinegar would not make up for the
want or worse than want, of every thing
else, and although the waiters made a
point of not appearing, until the bell had
been rung seven times, we at last made t
them understand that we neither liked
their mode of waiting, nor the contents of
 
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their larder, and so, according to their de
serts, deserted them.
The cathedral is the richest in fretwork

and carving, in the delicate finish of every
shaft and buttress, and pinnacle, that I saw,
on the journey, except Milan, j They showed us
in a little Gothic chapel, three skulls which,
they told us were those of the Magi. They
were set in framework of gold, and co‐
vered with jewels, but the pomp became
 
k
not the dry bones, The soulless eye, and
fleshless cheek looked not the less horrible,
though a diamond beamed through the one
and a bar of gold bound the other.— 8 Re‐
turned home, and the next morning de
parted from Cologne with regret, to trace
 
l
the mighty Rhine to his source 9 among the
Rhetian Alps. 10