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But toying in an aimless way
Some dusty, deep recesses under,
Flew back, and left me mute with wonder.
Within their hidden crypt lay gleaming
A cameo cut beyond my dreaming.
To think what countless blinded eyes,
Unconscious of the riches hidden
As mine, revealed to me unbidden !
O'er which my fancy loves to wander,
Antique upon the bracket yonder.
MARGARET J. PRESTON.
THE PORTA WESTPHALICA.
INCE the resurrection of the German Empire and its expansion,
an expansion which, it is believed, has but just begun, attention has more than ever been directed to that interesting and powerful country. It was time indeed ; since we have as little knowledge of it, generally speaking, as the Germans have of ourselves. German fiction and romance writers seem to have given to us, latterly, new food for delight; as German research and antiquarian study have long since stimulated the thought and commanded the respect of English scholars; and German historians of the school headed by Leopold von Ranke, are powerfully inducing us to follow their example; are teaching us how to throw new charms around what were considered the tritest subjects ; to enter upon a fuller and more critical treatment of old materials at hand and new facts just unearthed ; to explode historical myths and improbabilities; to strip false reputations on the one hand and do justice on the other ; to deduce lessons which, in pointing out forcible analogies with more recent events, bring also more clearly to our mind the power and precepts of History ; in fine, making of it a more erudite, hence a more dignified and philosophical study. Even if we may not divine what the future is to bring and in what order of events, yet in turning back page by page the volumes of history already written, the earnest student may, without difficulty, trace the inevitable train of cause and effect; may readily discern events as being but logical repetitions of conditions of society founded upon the same or similar causes; and he may at least foreshadow, with some certainty, what must recur in a national or sectional existence, though the precise year or decade of such recurrence be veiled to his vision.
To the writer, no portion of the present German Empire appears to offer so much of historic and dramatic interest as its northwestern corner. There the great struggles with the Romans, and later with the Norsemen, preceding German national existence, took place; there, by some yet undefined law of nature, the height of man's physical power was attained ; though their climate was most rigorous, and the resources of the soil scanty, there we find the staunchest of all the tribes of Germany
a veritable giant race, as the old Hünen graves still testify; there, too, we see the boldest and most warlike tribes finally breaking a power which at that time was in its zenith, and had been victorious everywhere else ; foremost among whom we meet the brave but unfortunate Sicambri, whom profound historical research has recently discovered to be identical with those Franks of whom we have the earliest accounts, two hundred and forty years after the nativity of Christ. We propose to give to our readers in this paper some account of this northwestern corner of Germany, in the centre of which stands the Porta Westphalica, and of the Porta itself.
“The Porta Westphalica !"—the sturdy, blue-eyed, open-faced Westphalian will point it out to you, as you stand upon the Weser bridge of the ancient burgh of Minden. You follow the direction of his finger up the mighty navigable stream ; and where of a sudden, as if by some mysterious power, it bends from a general western direction, far above, and grandly sweeps northward, you perceive a range of solid mountains cleft in twain ; the river rushing through the gap, and beneath you past Minden toward the Hansatown of Bremen. These mountains are the Weserkette ; this cleft the Porta Westphalica. A deep and steep cleft it is, looking like the pillars of Hercules ; a comparison indeed which cannot have been far from the minds of the Roman soldiers when Germanicus named this chain of hills the Silva Herculis. The American traveller will look upon this watergate with something like a home feeling, as it will strongly remind him of the many gaps through which the rivers of the Appalachian range make their way ; particularly of that through which the Potomac rolls its waters at Harper's Ferry, and that where the Susquehanna breaks through near Harrisburg. There are no other similar formations in Europe, excepting, perhaps, the Porta Hercynia, near Pforzheim, in Baden, a gap in the Black Forest. This fact, with the many historical reminiscences attached to it, has made the Porta Westphalica the most celebrated of Europe.
How came this gap into these Weser mountains? is a question which has engaged the attention of many eminent geographers, hydrographers and geologists. From the elevated lands of Central Germany a high range of mountains leads off to the northwest toward the Ems river — the Weserkette, with steep edges to north and south; on the southern edge flows the Weser, between it and the celebrated Teutoburgian Forest. To the north and south of these chains wide plains extend, gradually sloping northward to the ocean, and on the south lowering into what is called the “Münstersche Bucht,” in the centre of which lies the town of Münster. This topographical configuration shows that were the sea suddenly to rise from three to four hundred feet, with the moderate elevation of the Weser and Teuto burgian ranges and the extreme lowness of the valleys, the whole of North Germany would be flooded to the foot of the Weser hills. The waters would pour into the great Münster valley as far up as Paderborn and Osnabrück, the whole forming a gulf at the head of which would lie Detmold at the base of the Teutoburgian forest, the two mountains stretching their crests far out into the sea — two peninsulas. During the period of the diluvium this, as has generally been accepted by geographers, was really the case. Dr. Kohl, whose argument we follow as the most intelligible, so assumes with many others. For those of our readers who may not have had the fortune to know the late Dr. Kohl during his residence in this country and official connection with the United States Coast Survey, we may add that he was the friend of our lamented Maury and the co-worker of the late Prof. A. D. Bache. Eminent in his scientific attainments, none of his more extensive works will be laid aside without a feeling of strong friendship for an author who knew how to clothe the stern facts of science in a wondrous garb of beauty, and even romance; whose kindly heart speaks from every page. To him will the reader with ourselves be indebted for most striking facts in this and subsequent papers on Northwestern Germany. When the sea gradually receded, a work of centuries Dr. Kohl holds, the Weser followed in its wake. Popular belief at this day maintains in the graphic legends that the evil spirit once covered this land with a deluge; and geographers bring strong arguments to bear upon the assumption that the Weser river upon the retreat of the diluvial ocean occupied the identical bed now followed by her more western neighbor, the Ems. To mention these would lead us too far. “When the diluvial ocean finally retreated, it may have left the Porta already a cut of considerable depth, the bottom of which was however still so much
above the level of the Weser and her valleys that she had to remain true for a long time yet to her old northwestern direction and the Ems river.” As soon as the Porta had risen from the diluvial floods, the work of the destructive powers of nature began. The air corroded the rocks, atmospheric condensations and rains washed out the cleft, frosis and ice burst the solid walls, the growth of plants gnawed with varied force upon the earth's crust, the springs which broke forth scooped out deep valleys, and where an indentation had been, as in the Porta, it was natural that this work of destruction should proceed with disproportionate celerity. When finally the notch of the Porta — Weserscharte the peasants yet call it; related no doubt to our own sherd — had sunk so low as to permit the waters of the interior — binnen – valley to flow out into the plain beyond, it was not at first the Weser river that penetrated through the Porta Westphalica. From the angle that river makes near Vlotho, i.e. Fluthau, it is a considerable distance to the Porta, this upper western point where it changes to the northward being some eight miles off. Only small rivulets probably at first found their passage through it. These brooks gradually tapped the river, deepening their beds in a retrograde direction, and enticed the great river finally to waste its waters in a multitude of streamlets whose course lay through the Porta. Beyond it toward Minden and Bremen a channel must have already existed which led to the sea, the lower Weser section from Minden to Bremen being of more ancient date. It was the greatest revolution in the whole history of the formation of the Weser; the country penetrated by the Ems sank to great insignificance through this transformation. What seems to point to the establishment of the theory that it was above all the ocean's rush which made and widened the Porta, are the erratic blocks of granite strewn about in the NorthGerman plains, and that they are found within the Porta up the whole river valley to the county of Ravensberg and Bielefeld in especially large quantities. These blocks of granite were torn by the glaciers. from the granite mountains of Scandinavia, and upon icebergs and ice-shoals rafted over the North-German sea, where after the melting of the ice they sank to the bottom. And the fact that southward of the Porta they are found in immense numbers, seems to establish, without controversy that the ocean first covered and in its gradual retreat for centuries flowed through the narrow passage of the Porta Westphalica. Down to our days the enlargement of the Porta has -continued : in the early days of March the ice-masses brought down from the valley-streams above dam themselves against it, the floods form a vast lake, recalling the days of yore, leaving their rich allu-. vium upon the meadows along the river, washing more and more the mountain's sides; and industry has widened it also, as the Porta rocks yield the most valuable sandstone.
The historic interest attaching to the country of which the Porta is the centre will next engage our attention. If we go back to the most distant epochs, it is to give to this picture something like completeness. In the account of the period before Christ we will follow Lindner and Watterich. When in gray antiquity, from the western slopes of the Hindu-Koosh a portion of the Indo-Germanic (Aryan),