A JEWISH FAMILY
IN A SMALL VALLEY OPPOSITE ST. GOAR, UPON THE RHINE
Coleridge, my daughter, and I, in 1828, passed a fortnight upon
the banks of the Rhine, principally under the hospitable roof of
Mr. Aders of Gotesburg, but two days of the time we spent at St.
Goar in rambles among the neighbouring valleys. It was at St. Goar
that I saw the Jewish family here described. Though exceedingly
poor, and in rags, they were not less beautiful than I have
endeavoured to make them appear. We had taken a little dinner with
us in a basket, and invited them to partake of it, which the
mother refused to do, both for herself and children, saying it was
with them a fast-day; adding diffidently, that whether such
observances were right or wrong, she felt it her duty to keep them
strictly. The Jews, who are numerous on this part of the Rhine,
greatly surpass the German peasantry in the beauty of their
features and in the intelligence of their countenances. But the
lower classes of the German peasantry have, here at least, the air
of people grieviously opprest. Nursing mothers, at the age of
seven or eight and twenty often look haggard and far more decayed
and withered than women of Cumberland and Westmoreland twice their
age. This comes from being underfed and overworked in their
vineyards in a hot and glaring sun.
GENIUS of Raphael! if thy wings
Might bear thee to this glen,
With faithful memory left of things
To pencil dear and pen,
Thou would'st forego the neighbouring Rhine,
And all his majesty--
A studious forehead to incline
O'er this poor family.
The Mother--her thou must have seen,
In spirit, ere she came
To dwell these rifted rocks between,
Or found on earth a name;
An image, too, of that sweet Boy,
Thy inspirations give--
Of playfulness, and love, and joy,
Predestined here to live.
Downcast, or shooting glances far,
How beautiful his eyes,
That blend the nature of the star
With that of summer skies!
I speak as if of sense beguiled;
Uncounted months are gone,
Yet am I with the Jewish Child,
That exquisite Saint John.
I see the dark-brown curls, the brow,
The smooth transparent skin,
Refined, as with intent to show
The holiness within;
The grace of parting Infancy
By blushes yet untamed;
Age faithful to the mother's knee,
Nor of her arms ashamed.
Two lovely Sisters, still and sweet
As flowers, stand side by side;
Their soul-subduing looks might cheat
The Christian of his pride:
Such beauty hath the Eternal poured
Upon them not forlorn,
Though of a lineage once abhorred,
Nor yet redeemed from scorn.
Mysterious safeguard, that, in spite
Of poverty and wrong,
Doth here preserve a living light,
From Hebrew fountains sprung;
That gives this ragged group to cast
Around the dell a gleam
Of Palestine, of glory past,
And proud Jerusalem!