« AnteriorContinuar »
Marvellous things did our friend Blumenbach, the historian of the party, relate of the Brocken, the loftiest of the Harz Mountains, being about 3300 feet above the level of the sea. From its summit we could look around on the territories of not fewer than four sovereigns, those namely of Prussia, Hanover, Saxony, and Mentz, seventy leagues in extent*, diversified by mountain, dale, and plain, finely intersected by rivers, and said to contain a population of above five millions.t Still the desolation of the immediate spot from whence this magnificent view presents itself, fully justifies the German imprecation, “ Would that you were on the top of the Brocken !" and, to make the misery complete, doomed, let me add, to spend the night in the dormitory (a non dormiendo) provided for the accommodation of spectre hunters, with a full complement of German students (@chter Jenensers-real Jena students) lying about in all directions, like animals in a menagerie, only not so well appointed. I
Blumenbach's account of the “ Blocksberg Gespenst” (Brocken Spectre), given with all due particularity, interested us highly.
Professor Gmelin had published a description of the
* About the 200th part of the whole of Europe. + Brewster.
| Such a night - Coleridge, Chester, and myself subsequently (June 24th, 1799) spent in the said dormitory.
phenomenon, as it appeared to Mr. Jordan in the “ Göttingischen Journal der Wissenschaften" of the preceding year. Nevertheless, there was not wanting traditional authority for the spectre's occasional appearance between the spectator and the sun, which, from being wholly inexplicable, was proportionably wonderful, and led to an animated discussion of the pros and cons, which terminated, as might be expected, in our giving a unanimous verdict in favour of Mr. Jordan ; who, of course, considers the renowned spectre as nothing more than the gigantic shadow of the spectator himself, projected, at a particular elevation of the sun, on the opposite fog or mist.
But it may be satisfactory to insert here Mr. Jordan's own account, as it appeared in the Göttingen Journal :
“ In the course of my repeated tours through the Harz,” Mr. Jordan says, “ I ascended the Brocken twelve different times ; but I had the good fortune only twice (both times about Whitsuntide) to see that atmospheric phenomenon, called the Spectre of the Brocken, which appears to me worthy of particular attention, as it must, no doubt, be observed on other high mountains which have a situation favourable for producing it.
“ The first time I was deceived by this extraordinary phenomenon, I had clambered up to the summit of the Brocken, very early in the morning, in order to wait there for the inexpressibly beautiful view of the sun rising in the east. The heavens were already streaked with red; the sun was just appearing above the horizon in full majesty, and the most perfect serenity prevailed throughout the surrounding country, when the other Harz mountains, in the south-west towards the Worm mountains, &c. lying under the Brocken, began to be covered by thick clouds. Ascending at that moment the granite rocks called the Teufelskanzel, there appeared before me, though at a great distance, towards the Worm mountains and the Achtermannshöhe, the gigantic figure of a man, as if standing on a large pedestal. But scarcely had I discovered it when it began to disappear; the clouds sank down speedily and expanded, and I saw the phenomenon no more.
“ The second time, however, I saw the spectre somewhat more distinctly, a little below the summit of the Brocken, and near the Heinrich's-höhe, as I was looking at the sun rising about four o'clock in the morning. The weather was rather tempestuous; the sky towards the level country was pretty clear, but the Harz mountains had attracted several thick clouds, which had been hovering around them, and which, beginning to settle on the Brocken, confined the prospect. In these clouds, soon after the rising of the sun, I saw my own shadow, of a monstrous size, move itself for a couple of seconds exactly as I moved ; but
I was soon involved in clouds, and the phenomenon disappeared.
“ It is impossible to see this phenomenon except when the sun is at such an altitude as to throw his rays upon the body in a horizontal direction ; for, if he is higher, the shadow is thrown rather under the body than before it.”
Sir D. Brewster has since admirably described and explained these and various other still more extraordinary phenomena in his “ Letters on Natural Magic.”
One of the best accounts, he there informs us, of the Spectre of the Brocken, is that which is given by M. Hauè, who saw it on the 23d of May, 1797.. “After having been on the summit of the mountain no less than thirty times, he had at last the good fortune of witnessing the object of his curiosity. The sun rose about four o'clock in the morning through a serene atmosphere. In the south-west, towards Achtermannshöhe, a brisk west wind carried before it the transparent vapours which had not yet been condensed into thick heavy clouds. About a quarter past four he went towards the inn, and looked round to see whether the atmosphere would afford him a free prospect towards the south-west, when he observed at a very great distance, towards Achtermannshöhe, a human figure of a monstrous size. His hat having been almost carried away by a violent gust of wind, he
suddenly raised his hand to his head to protect his hat, and the colossal figure did the same. He immediately made another movement, by bending his body, an action which was repeated by the spectral figure. M. Hauè was desirous of making further experiments, but the figure disappeared. He remained, however, in the same position, expecting its return, and in a few minutes it again made its appearance on the Achtermannshöhe, when it mimicked his gestures as before.
“ He then called the landlord of the inn, and having both taken the same position which he had before, they looked towards the Achtermannshöhe, but saw nothing. In a very short time, however, two colossal figures were formed over the above eminence, and after bending and imitating the gestures of the two spectators, they disappeared.
“ Retaining their position, and keeping their eyes still fixed upon the spot, the two gigantic spectres again stood before them, and were joined by a third. Every movement that they made was imitated by the three figures, but the effect varied in its intensity, being sometimes weak and faint, and at other times strong and well defined.”—Letters on Nat. Mag.p.130.
Coleridge made the profound, although seemingly trivial, remark that no animal but man appears ever to be struck with wonder. He was fond of amusing himself and his fellow tourists by asking the de