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The Sorcerer's Apprentice

English Travellers and the Rhine in the Long Nineteenth Century

Hagen Schulz-Forberg

One summer morning, Lady Jephson, a regular visitor to the German spa towns on the Rhine, stepped onto her balcony and burst into song. She sang with anger and pride, a spontaneous reaction to the sounds she had heard all day long, songs shouted by German children who ran through the streets waving flags and indulging in a general patriotic fever. They sang songs English tourists at the romantic Rhine scenery had adored for a long time, songs which spoke of German love for their country, a love thought to be deeply rooted in the image of the simple and prosaic German peasant, as well as in the courtly prince. Yet, in August 1914, Lady Jephson could not take any more of it; the impact of the supposedly traditional and historic love of the Germans for their country was too close to the present and was actually shaping the near future. ‘Church bells chime and children sing Deutschland über Alles (Germany before anything) ad nauseam. I am so sick of Heil Dir im Sieger Kranz (Bless You in the Victor’s Crown) that as the children pass by shouting it or Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland? (What is the German’s Fatherland?) I go out on my balcony and retaliate singing Rule Britannia’ (Jephson 1915: 32).

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