Friday, October 30, 2009

The Loreley

Still today, mention of the Romance of the Rhine conjures up a picture of the mighty state rock between Kaub and St. Goarhausen called the Loreley. Downstream the river was squeezed into its narrowest and deepest point; even in the 19th century, reefs and rapids made it extremely dangerous for ships and rafts to pass this point, so a tree bells warning told the crew it was time to pray. Moreover the rock was already famous in the early Middle Ages for its good echo, thought to be ghostly voices.
No wonder a multitude of legend was woven around the rock, the most famous of which is that of siren called Loreley, who bewitches the hearts of sailors with her unearthly beauty and her enchanting voice. The sailors look up at the rock to catch sight of the charming maiden, forgetting for just a moment the dangerous rapids and reefs. Their boat is dashed to pieces and they sank beneath the waves for ever.
This is what happened also to the young Erbgraf (heir to the Count's title) von Rheinphalz, who is lured to his doom in this way. His father orders that the witch on the rock be caught or killed. When soldiers bar the way back into her cave, she calls on her father, the Rhine, to help her.
Huge, foaming waves rise up out of the waters and carry the maiden away. Since then she has never been seen again. But sometimes, when the moon is shining bright, a mysterious singing is to be heard, described by Romanticist poets. Heinrich Heine's Song of Loreley, set to music by Slicher, made the Loreley Rock famous all over the world.

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