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BY THE AUTHOR OF HIGHWAYS AND BYWAYS."
THE most striking objects in the streets of the University towns of Germany are the numerous groups of young men, of a half-and-half appearance, between that of mechanics and of men of fashion. The great majority incline towards the former; and they would at once be set down as tradesmen's apprentices, or others of that wholesome class which is obliged to earn its bread, were it not for the lazy, independent air which is prominent both in individuals and in the mass. Some, however, show evidence of "blood," both in manner and mien, and in the distinctive shades of dress, from the velvet and silk-lined shooting-jacket to the frogged and embroidered frock, as compared with the coarse coatees, the clumsy redingotes, and the appurtenant articles of apparel, worn by the many.
Nothing can be in worse taste than the cut and pattern of the common costume of these youths; even when the greatest efforts are made at finery, the effect is villainous. A pair of brass spurs often stick out from torn and dirty boots; coarse and loose-hanging pantaloons are surmounted by gaudy and flaunting vests; and the body coats, even when daubed with silk lace, fringe, and tassels, are but more glaring proofs of atrocious taste. The little caps, of many different colours, are ungraceful and mean; and the everlasting and ever-evident pipe, full four feet long, sending out clouds from the mouth, or dangling from the coat pocket, reminds one of Porson's devil
Whose coat was black and whose breeches were blue,
and gives a notion (in many instances falsely) that vapoury vulgarity and smoke-dried intellect must be the distinguishing traits of a German student. The greater part of those youths wear mustachios; several allow their beards to grow on the chin, in the Charles the First fashion; and some have their faces covered with hair; while all wear the shirt collar turned down à la Vandyke, and dispense with the use of cravats.
Almost every second or third man you meet has one or more scars on his face. These display themselves in every phasis of recent or remote infliction. Sometimes as if the cheek had been seared by a sharp iron; at others, as though a narrow dash of red was daubed across; and often the inelegant applications of transversal stripes of common stickingplaster tell the unhealed state of the cicatrize. All those wounded have a prize-fighting air. Some remind one of the grim and patchedup physiognomy (but that is only a wood-cut) that serves as a frontispiece to the memoirs of a celebrated German storyteller, the Hochwelgeborner Baron Munchausen. On one occasion, I observed a young gentleman with the point of his nose carefully wrapped up, and held by a sling which was fastened to his cap.
So much for the outward and visible signs of the German students. Their general habits of life are unrefined and debasing. Tobacco smoke and beer form their atmosphere. Insignificant quarrels are ollowed by mean scratching-matches, called by courtesy duels, but better designated by their own peculiar phrase paukerei*. All this
A cant phrase, compounded, it may be, from the English words poke and awry;
is very degrading. In those low drinking-bouts of malt liquor amidst stupefying fumes from bad tobacco, there is neither good taste nor cleanliness. Frequent squabbles on trifling causes engender an unsocial and quarrelsome spirit; and the mockery of fighting, by which they are followed, is not even terminated by a reconciliation. Resentment should be wiped away with our own or our enemy's blood. The quarrel should not be allowed to fester like the wound. But a University duel ends ungenerously, as it begins ignobly. It is the very antithesis of chivalry. Manliness blushes for, and civilization turns sick at it.
A paukerei is, notwithstanding, a thing to be seen-at least by the traveller who attaches importance to manners, and wishes to form a comparative table of national traits. I accordingly resolved to become a spectator of one, at least, of those affairs; and, after various efforts, I succeeded. But before I describe it, I must say, that during many months' residence in Heidelberg, I neither witnessed nor heard of a single outrage or offence against public propriety, on the part of the Burschenschaft, as the community of students is called. The only thing approaching to a frolic which came under my notice, (for I do not admit the discordant yells of their beer-drinking bouts, or their car riage-processions in and out of town as evidence of such,) was the pushing a bundle of grass off the head of an old woman, at which both she and the youths laughed. This was a very Germanized kind of joke. In fact, the people, young and old, are too much stupefied with tobacco to be at all up to fun. I defy any one to cite a dozen, much less "A thousand, raw tricks of these bragging Jacks."
Among the exceptions-the many exceptions, I should say, to the un fascinating description I have given, I had the pleasure of being acquainted with one, who was neither drinker nor fighter, who never suffered under the laws of the hiéb-comment, the stich-comment, or the knuppel-comment (the cutting, the stabbing, or the cudgelling modes of duelling); nor ever experienced the katzenjammer (the cats'-misery) of growing sober after a debauch. This young man undertook to be my cicerone at a paukerei; and he was not long in giving me notice that one was to take place, at five o'clock in the afternoon of a certain day.
We accordingly set out for the scene of action,-a wirtschaft, or low drinking-house, about a quarter of a mile from the town, on the opposite side of the river. But when we reached the bridge, we learned that the police had got scent of the affair; and a signal being hoisted by a scout on the river's bank, the one in communication at the wirtschaft gave the alarm; and, in a few minutes, we saw the violators of university law scrambling and scampering up the hills, flying along the road, or pushing across the stream in the small canoes which were ready for the occasion. The pursuit was not very fierce, for none of the of fenders were taken, though a reward of three florins was promised for the seizure of each delinquent. But perhaps a counter-bribe had been given; so that I was, probably, the most disappointed person on the occasion.
for I know not a more rational or national derivation for it; though an ordinary etymologist might find one in the verb pauken, and the collective termination which is not, by the bye, indigenous to Germany.
*The law against duelling cannot be very strictly enforced, for no less than five hundred and forty of these paukereien took place during the semestre, or college course, for the year.
Another time we arrived after the business was done, in consequence of a servant's mistake as to the hour. A third opportunity was lost by the doctor, who must attend on these occasions, being gone on another party of pleasure with some friends. Two or three more disappointments took place, but finally, one sultry day in August, everything favoured my wishes, and I reached the place, accompanied by my goodnatured guide, at the same time with the combatants and the doctor, and we had the good luck to discover that the coast was clear, and no interruption likely to be offered to the sport.
These duels invariably take place in a large, lofty room, belonging to an isolated house of entertainment, which is situate on the side of a hill, in a by-path that stretches up from the road to Siegelhausen on the northern bank of the Neckar. As my companion and myself passed through the garden and entered a straggling court-yard behind, the first thing that caught my attention was a man holding to a grindingstone, which was turned by a little boy, the blade of a long rapier, another lying beside him already sharpened. A young woman passed us, towards a long wing of the house which reposed on a vaulted terrace, a pewter basin in her hand filled with water, in which floated a large discoloured sponge. An old woman hobbled after, with a couple of long, coarse towels dangling over her arm.
All this looked like symptoms of fight, and attributions of surgery. They were so, in fact. And it is not easy to describe the unpleasant sensations excited by these cold-blooded preparations by attendants of both sexes, all-male and female, young and old-looking as wooden and unconcerned on their arrangements for execution as the posts of a gallows or a guillotine.
Groups of amateurs now straggled into the garden and yard. They were all students attracted to the spot, a few from regard to the champions, more from love of the sport, yet all with an air of abstract indifference, which only wanted an English atmosphere and English tailors to have made each man a breathing exemplar of the most exquisite dandyism. How, mused I as I looked on, would these Germans be affected by a riot or a battle? Could such a people ever consummate a popular revolution? As vassals of princedom, as tools of monarchs, they have often fought well, and would do so again and again. As enthusiasts in religion, spurred on by fanatic zeal, they shattered their ancient empire into fragments. But could any sentiment purely personal, or which merely embraces political rights, without the prestige of loyalty or religion, sufficiently rouse up the energies of the Germans of to-day to such a pitch as is required for effecting their own deliverance? Serious questions should not be answered hastily, even to one's-self. So I was determined to " pause for a reply."
Among the gathering spectators of the scene I was now about to witness there might have been two or three somewhat actively worked upon by the preparations for the combat. The affair itself soon commenced.
The two principal actors were as complete contrasts in personal appearance as it was possible to see pitted against one another. One was tall, handsome, and of a fine, bold bearing; the other short, plain-featured, and mean-looking. Alas for the instinctive injustice of human nature! It was impossible not to sympathise at once, to almost identify one's-self with him whose "outside man" looked so fair. No; a
whole life of experience could not resist the oft-deceiving prejudice of appearance; and I mentally espoused the quarrel of this lofty and goodlooking swashbuckler, without knowing or caring at the moment whether he was in the right or the wrong, a brave man or a bully. But the self-adjusting principle soon began its action; the moral pendulum swung straight again. My eye caught the colours on the ribbon round the short man's cap. They were the tricolour! He was, then, a Frenchman, a son of liberty, perhaps a boy of the barricades? His opponent's band was black and white. He, therefore, was a Prussian; an educated, a civilised, a willing slave! How much less degraded is the Russian serf, or the black bondsman of America! Now, then, my sympathies have found the true course in which to run. There is no prejudice now to combat or give way to. I am enlisted under the true banner. Firm heart, quick eye, and steady arm, my brave lad! "Go it!" what a pity his name was not "Ned!"
And to work they soon went, and in a very exciting style. I have omitted to sketch the preparative strapping on of their plastrons. I blush to call them by their real English name of armour; for I was ashamed to see men make such a mockery of fighting. Nor have I said a word of their casquettes. Why must I tell the truth, and translate them helmets? And I skipped all mention of their mufflers-I do not quite like to write down the true word, gauntlets; and I rather wished to let my readers enter into all the spirit of the set-to first, before I told them, as truth forces me to tell, that the combatants had nothing to apprehend at the utmost from all their " notes of preparation," beyond a cut across the nose or cheek. Even such a consummation is not pleasant in expectancy to those who happen to have the forenamed feature either too long or too short; for, be it ever so long, no one, I suppose, would view its curtailment with complacency.
But admitting all the risk, still there was nothing to work very intensely on a mere observer-to make his nerves coil round his heart, or fix his teeth, or clench his hands, in the spectacle of a couple of youths slashing at each other's skull-caps and plastrons, the latter made of thick leather, and forming hauberks and cuirasses, so stoutly stuffed, that a pistol bullet could scarcely get through to the carcase behind. The desperate fidelity" of poor Kean's battle-scene in Richard or Macbeth was almost as blood-stirring. But then he had not the pale cheek and the quivering lip, the frown of real anger, the glance of genuine hate. These tragedians had all that; and it was the truth of the picture that invested it with an interest which, compared to the mere assumption of truth, is what historical painting is to caricature.
Of all the sounds associated with destruction, there is none so keenly painful as that produced by blade against blade, either of small-swords or rapiers, in single combat. The booming of artillery, the bursting of shells, the rattle of musketry, the crash of sabres,--this chorus of the battle-field is wholesale music to a warlike mind. The singing twang of a cannon-bullet, or the sharp whistle of a musket-ball, is impressive rather than painful; but the thin whisk of steel against steel goes clean through the mind, and makes the blood of the brain run cold.
I positively forgot that my brave bully-boys could do each other no mortal harm; and I looked on and listened for full five minutes, (as they cut, and parried, and stamped, and flourished,) with as decided a April.-VOL. XL. NO. CLX.
wound-up-edness as any spectacle of duelling ever caused me. At the end of five minutes the seconds pronounced the first heat over, and each man leant upon his friend's shoulder, (the friend exactly "accoutred as he was,") and panted, and wiped away" the plentiful moisture which encumbered" his brow, as Cowper (very nearly) says or sings.
A pause of a few minutes sufficed to rest the combatants, and again they went to work, performing, with great activity and ingenuity, all the evolutions of attack and defence according to the most approved method of the hieb-comment; their seconds following every movement by their side, with rapiers interposed, to protect the principals from anything like foul play, and the vulnerable parts of their bodies from any chancemedley touch of the villainous "cold iron."
Heat after heat went on to the number of five, until at last I was satisfied that the rivals were by far too clever. I was tired as much, at least, as they were. All excitement was worn out; and, in a most sanguinary yearning for the conclusion, I mentally exclaimed
Oh, for the blood of a German man!"
I should not have cared much had it been that of a Frenchman-ay, or an Irishman even. Suspense, like the celebrated sauce in the " Almanach des Gourmands," would make one manger son père.
And at last the long-wished-for demonstration of a wound was made, by a very pretty stream trickling, like a narrow skein of crimson silk, from the tip of my tricolour hero's chin, right down upon his plastron. Down fell the rapiers in a trice; off flew the casquettes; up sprang the little doctor, with his sky-blue coat and nankeen pantaloous, from the bench on which he had been dozing for full twenty minutes; forward hobbled the old woman with the basin and sponge; backward ran the boy who attended to pick up the weapons; out straggled the spectators; off stalked the victor, as proud as Polyphemus; and away slunk the vanquished, leaning on his friend's arm in a manner so sneaking, as to lower full cent.-per-cent. my already exhausted sympathy in his favour. The pleasantest relief to my fatigued and disappointed spirit was to learn that my Frenchman was, after all, not a Frenchman, and that his tri-coloured hatband was only the badge of the particular section of the University league to which he belonged. No sign or token of courtesy followed this catastrophe,-no shake of the hand-no look of regret,but a mutual scowl of sullen indifference. The men were probably bitter enemies for ever.
And so ended the paukerei, a poor affair-an abortion of base-born and ill-bred valour, begotten in a bier brauwery, and brought forth in a wein-wirthschaft, unsponsored by any high or noble sentiment, undignified by any trait of generosity or pride. The tilting-bouts of chivalry were bravely barbarous; but these scratching-matches of civilization are thoroughly base.
In giving this sketch of one of the leading traits of German life, and in stating, but by no means exaggerating, the impression it produced on me, I do not mean to imply that the youths of Germany are deficient in that animal courage which too often urges the young men of other nations into personal conflicts, and makes them affairs of life and death. They are, on the contrary, as ready as any others to fight à l'ou