Imágenes de páginas

of the Wagnerwand, (Wand being a wall,) and the great and lesser Lehner; and here they seem almost to meet high above you and throw a strange gloom over your path, and the torrent of the Sulz roars away below in the distance; while the oft-repeated answering of the echo you evoke is more weird than utter silence. The path which has hitherto been going north now trends round to the west, and displays the back of the Martinswand, and the fertile so-called Zirlerchristen, soon affording a pleasing view both ways towards Zirl and Innsbruck. There is rough accommodation here for the night for those who would ascend the Gross Solstein, 9,393 feet; the Brandjoch, 7,628 feet; or the Klein Solstein, 8,018 feet-peaks of the range which keep Bavaria out of Tirol.

Proceeding again on the road to Zirl, the level space between the mountains and the river continues to grow narrower and narrower, but what there is, is every inch cultivated; and soon we pass the Markstein, which constitutes the boundary between Ober and Unter-Innthal. Byand-by the mountain slopes drive the road almost down to the bank, and straight above you rises the foremost spur of the Solstein, the Martinswand, so called by reason of its perpendicularity, celebrated far and wide in Sage and ballad for the hunting exploit and marvellous preservation of Kaiser Max.

It was Easter Monday, 1490 ; Kaiser Max was staying at Weierburg, and started in the early morning on a hunting expedition on the Zirlergeberge. So far there is nothing very remarkable, nor that his ardent disposition and love of danger carried him on beyond all his suite; but then came a marvellous accident, the accounts of the origin of which are various. As most often reported, the chamois he was following brought him suddenly to the very edge of the precipice I have described ; the steepness of the terrible descent did not affright him; but in his frantic course one by one the iron spikes had been wrenched from his soles, till at last just as he reached a ledge, scarcely a span in breadth, he found he had but one left; to proceed was impossible, but—so also was retreat. There he hung, then, a speck between earth and sky, or as Collin's splendid popular ballad, which I cannot forbear quoting, has it

• Hier half kein Sprung,

Kein Adler-Schwung
Denn unter ihm senkt sich die Martinswand
Der steilste Fels im ganzen Land.

Er starrt hinab

In 's Wolkengrab
Und starrt hinaus in 's Wolkenmeer
Und schaut zurück, und schaut umher.

Wo das Donnergebrüll zu Füssen ihm grollt
Wo das Menschengewühl tief unter ihm rollt:

Da steht des Kaisers Majestät
Doch nicht zur Wonne hoch erhöht.

Ein Jammersohn

Auf luft 'gem Thron
Findet sich Max nun plötzlich allein
Und fühlt sich schaudernd, verlassen und klein.'

But the singers of the high deeds of Kaiser Max could not bring themselves to believe that so signal a danger could have befallen their hero by mere accident. They must discover for it an origin to connect it with his political importance; accordingly they have said that the minions of Sigismund der Münzreiche, dispossessed at his abdication, bad plotted to lead Max, the strong redresser of wrongs, the last flower of chivalry, the hope of the Hapsburg House, the mainstay of his century, into destruction, that it was not the innocent chamois that led the Kaiser astray, but that the conspirators misled him as to the direction it had taken.

Certainly, when one thinks of the situation of the empire at that moment, and of Hungary, the border-land against the Turks, suddenly deprived of its great King Matthias Corvinus, even while yet at war with Austria, only four days before. When we think that the writers of the ballad had before their eyes the great amount of good he really did effect not only for Tirol, but for the empire and for Europe, and then contemplated the idea of his career being cut short thus at the outset, we can understand that they deemed it more flattering to believe so great a peril was incurred in the cause of duty than in that of pleasure.

Here then he hung; a less fearless hunter might have been overawed by the prospect or exhausted by the strain. Not so Kaiser Max; he not only held on steadfastly by the hour, but was able to look round him so calmly that he at last discerned behind him a cleft in the rock, or little cave, affording a footing less precarious than that on which he had rested hitherto; the ballad seems to say that it opened itself to receive him, though the words do not absolutely mean it. The rest of the hunting party, even those who had nerve to follow him to the edge of the crag, could not see what had become of him; below, there was no one to think of looking up, and if there had been they could hardly have discerned even an emperor at a height of something like a thousand feet above them. The horns of the huntsmen, and the messengers sent in every direction hither and thither to ask counsel of the most experienced mountain climbers, within a few hours crowded the banks on both sides with the loyal and enthusiastic people ; till at last the

* His well-known daring, emulating that of the chamois and the eagle, was of no avail now; for straight under him sinks the Martin's Wall, the steepest cliff of the whole country-side. He gazes down through that grave of clouds. He gazes abroad over that cloud

He glances around, and his gaze recoils. With only the thunder-roll of the people's voices beneath, there stands the Kaiser's Majesty. But not raised aloft to receive his people's homage. A son of sorrow, on a throne of air, the great Maximilian finds himself isolated, trembling, forsaken, and small.


wail of his faithful subjects, which could be heard a mile off, sent comfort into the heart of the Kaiser, who stood silent and steadfast, relying on God, and his people. Meantime, the sun had reached the meridian; the burning rays poured down on the captive, and gradually, as the hours went by, the rocks around him grew glowing hot like an oven ; exhausted by the long fast, no less than the anxiety of his position, and the sharp run that had preceded the accident, he began to feel his strength ebbing away. One desire stirred him, to know whether any help was possible before the insensibility, which he felt must supervene, overcame him. Then he bethought him of writing on a strip of parchment he had about him, to describe his situation, and to ask if there was any means of rescue; he tied the scroll to a stone with the cord of his hunting-horn, and threw it down into the depth below. But no sound came in answer; the people loved him so much, no one could bear to announce his fate to him.

In the meantime all were straining to find a way of escape; even the old Archduke Sigismund, who, though he is never accused of any knowledge of the alleged plot of his courtiers, yet may well be supposed to have entertained no very good feeling towards Maximilian, now forgot all ill-will, and despatched swift messengers to Schwatz to summon the cleverest Knappen * to come with their gear and see if they could not devise a means for reaching him with a rope; others ran from village to village, calling on all for aid and counsel. Some rang the storm-bells; and some lighted alarm fires; while many more poured into the churches and pilgrimage sanctuaries to pray for help from on High ; and pious brotherhoods thousands in number marching with their holy emblems veiled in mourning, and playing dirges as they came, gathered round the base of the Martinswand.

The Kaiser from the giddy height could make out something of what was going on; but as no answer came, a second and a third time he wrote asking the same words ; and when still no answer came, for they durst not tell him the worst, bis heart died down within him, and he said, 'If there was any hope, most surely my people would have sent to me. So there is no doubt but I must die here.' Then he turned his heart to God, and tried to forget everything of this earth, and think only of that which is eternal. But now the sun sank low towards the horizon ; while light yet remained, once more he took his tablet and wrote; he had no cord left to attach it to the stone, so he bound it with his gold chainof what use were earthly ornaments any more to him ?—and threw it down,' as the ballad forcibly says, “into the living world, out of that grave high placed in air.'

One in the crowd caught it, and the people wept aloud as he read out to them what the Kaiser had traced with failing band. He thanked Tirol for its loyal interest in his fate ; he acknowledged humbly that his suffering was a penance sent him worthily by Heaven for the pride and

* See Part VIII. vol. viii. p. 298.

shout up haughtiness with which he had pursued the chase, thinking nothing too difficult for him. Now he was brought low. He offered his blood and his life in satisfaction. He saw there was no help to be hoped for his body, he trusted his soul to the mercy of God. But he besouglit them to send to Zirl, and beg the priest there to bring the Most Holy Sacrament and bless his last hour with Its Presence. When It arrived they were to announce it to him by firing off a gun, and another while the Benediction was imparted. Then he bid them all pray for steadfastness for him, while the pangs of hunger gnawed away his life.

The priest of Zirl hastened to obey the summons, and the Kaiser's injunctions were punctually obeyed. Meantime, the miners of Schwatz were busy arranging their plan of operations-no easy matter, for they stood fifteen hundred feet above the Emperor's ledge. But before they were ready for the forlorn attempt, another deliverer appeared upon the scene, with a strong arm supported the almost lifeless form of the Emperor, for he had now been fifty-two hours in this sad plight, and bore him triumphantly up the pathless height. There he restored him to the people, who, frantic with joy, let him pass through their midst without observing his appearance. Who was this deliverer? The traditions of the time say he was an angel, sent in answer to the Kaiser's penitential trust in God and the prayers of the people. Later narrators say-some, that he was a bold huntsman, others, a reckless outlaw, to whom the track was known, and tell you there is a record of a pension being paid annually in reward for the service, if not to him, at least to someone who claimed to hare rendered it.*

The Monstrance, which bore the Blessed Sacrament from Zirl to carry comfort to the Emperor in his dire need, was laid up among the treasures of Ambras.

Maximilian, in thanksgiving for his deliverance, resolved to be less reckless in his future expeditions, and never failed to remember the anniversary. He also employed miners from Schwatz to cut a path down to the hole, afterwards called the Max-Höhle, which had sheltered him, to pare risk to his faithful subjects, who would make the perilous descent to return thanks on the spot for his recovery; and he set up there a crucifix, with figures of the Blessed Virgin and S. John on either side large enough to be seen from below; and even to the present day, men used to dangerous climbing visit it with similar sentiments. It is not often the tourist is tempted to make the attempt, and they must be cool-headed indeed who would venture it. The best view of it is to be

Primisser, who took great pains to collect all the various traditions of this erent, mentions a favourite huntsman of the Emperor, named Oswald Zips, whom he ennobled as Hallauer v. Hohenfelsen. This may have been the actual deliverer, or may have been supposed to be such, from the circumstance of the title being Hohentelsen, or High-cliff; and that a patent of nobility was bestowed on funtsman would imply that he had rendered some singular service: the family, however, soon died out.

[ocr errors]

got from the remains of the little hunting-seat and church Maximilian afterwards built on the Martinsbühl, a green height opposite it, and itself no light ascent. It is said Maximilian sometimes shot the chamois out of the windows of this villa. The stories are endless of his hardihood and presence of mind in his alpine expeditions. At one time, threatened by the descent of a falling rock, he not only was alert enough to spring out of the way in time, but also seized a huntsman following him, who was not so fortunate, and saved him from being carried over the precipice. At another, he saw a branch of a tree overhanging a yawning abyss; to try his presence of mind, he swung himself on to it, and hung over the precipice; but crack! went the branch, and yet he saved himself by an agile spring on to another tree. Another time, when threatened by a falling rock, his presence of mind shewed itself in remaining quite still, close against the mountain wall, in the very line of its course, having measured with his eye that there was space enough for it to clear him. But enough for the present.

Zirl affords a timely resting-place, either before returning to Innsbruck, or starting afresh to explore the Isarthal up to Scharnitz. In itself it has not much to arrest attention, except its picturesque situation and its history, connecting it with the defence of the country against various attacks from Bavaria ; but it is the key to the exploration of the Isarthal, and a resting-place often adopted for ascending the Solstein and other peaks of the Bavarian frontier. Proceeding northwards along the road to Seefeld, and a little off it, you come upon Fragenstein, another of Maximilian's hunting-seats, a strong fortress for some two hundred years before, and now a fine ruin ; there are many strange tales of a great treasure buried here, and a green-clad huntsman, who appears from time to time, and challenges the peasants to come and help him dig it out, but something always occurs to prevent the successful issue of the adventure. Once a party of excavators got so far, that they saw the metal vessel enclosing it; but then suddenly arose such a frightful storm, that none durst proceed with the work; and after that the clue to its place of concealment was lost. Con ing the somewhat steep ascent, Leiten is passed, and then Reit, with nothing to arrest notice, and then Seefeld, celebrated by the legend my old friend told me on the Freundsberg ;* the Archduke Ferdinand built a special chapel to the left of the parish church, called die Heilige Blutskapelle, in 1575, to contain the Flost which had convicted Oswald Milser, and which is even now an object of frequent pilgrimage. The Archduchess Eleonora provided the crystal reliquary and crown, and the rich curtains within which it is preserved. At a little distance to south-west of Seefeld, on a mountainpath leading to Telfs, is a little circular chapel, built by Leopold V. in 1628, over a crucifix which had long been honoured there. It is soinetimes called the Kreuz-kapelle, but more often the zur-See-kapelle, though one of the two little lakes, whence the appellation, and the name

* See Part VIII., vol. viii. p. 396.

« AnteriorContinuar »