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Memel, July, 1814.
In the neighbourhood of Dantzick, we visited the monastery of Oliva. Its situation combined all which the most agreeable scenery could produce; and its structure, the rudeness of the age in which it was established. The one, contrasted with the other, appeared as the venerable relic of piety, which had braved the shocks of past ages, and yet afforded protection to its pious devotees.
The sight of these religious edifices always carries us back to distant ages. In these asylums, the seducing pleasures of the world were renounced; the germ of knowledge was fostered, until time ripened it to perfection, and spread its genial influence around. Hither flocked the aged and unhappy. Here they sought that comfort and consolation which their sorrows demanded, while the sick and poor crowded round, to crave the boon of charity from the pious fathers.
The lapse of ages has sunk in oblivion the history of each individual action, and only the bolder features, like the strong lights and shades of the landscape, can now be discovered.
The monastery of Oliva was founded as early as the twelfth century. It was richly endowed with many privileges and immunities, by the sovereigns of Poland. In the intestine revolutions of the country, it was seven times demolished; yet, like a spot too hallowed to be lost in ruins, was as constantly restored. In the sixteenth century, the inhabitants of Dantzick, in a fit of frenzy, carried the torch of destruction and razed it to the ground. The king of Poland, for the irreligious act, compelled them to rebuild it on the plan of its former magnificence.
The present disturbances in the country have again affected this monastery. Before the invasion of the French it contained seventy fathers. Of that number only fourteen are survivors, and but five of these now reside in the establishment. shamefully despoiled of its paintings, and the riches of its tar, by the French. During the siege of Dantzick, the Russians converted it into a barrack for their soldiers, and left it in a sad and mutilated state. The cloisters communicate with the cells, in which the monks reside. We visited one of the brothers, who showed that the gloomy wall of a monastery, or the austerity of its laws, had not made many
ravages on his
Instead of the lank care-worn devotee, we beheld the plump, cheerful father of gayety and satisfaction.
It was now the beginning of July, and the weather had become so oppressively hot, during our stay at Dantzick, that we proposed to travel during the night, in order to avoid the excessive heat of the day. The evening we took our departure proved dark and rainy, in consequence of which the postillion lost his
the landaulet in a deep swamp. The accident was trifling, and a small village being near to the spot, our German servant went in quest of assistance. The few
families who inhabited the villages were Poles, and unacquainted with the German language.-Frederick not being able to make himself understood, or to rouse them from their couches, returned in rather an indignant manner, and exclaimed “ that they could not speak a word of German, and did not deserve to live !" As a last resource, the postillion rang the church bell, which soon collected a number of uncouth, ragged Poles, who, in a short time, extricated the carriage, and conveyed us to the road. Nothing could be more miserable than the appearance of these poor men. They were wrapped up in sheep-skin jackets. Several of them were afflicted with that offensive disease, the plica polonica, or matted hair. The hair hangs over their necks in thick and clotted lumps. The disorder is supposed to proceed from a viscous humour, exuding from the head into the tubes of the hair, which dilates to such an extent as to admit small globules of blood.
From Dantzick, we proceeded, through a flat country, along the west bank of the Vistula, and reached the small town of Dersehau, chiefly inhabited by Poles. The wretched appearance of these people excited no other feeling than disgust and pity. They carry on a considerable inland trade, by means of the Vistula; large rafts of wood and barges of grain are constantly seen floating down the river.
The grain boats are navigated down the river, from the interior of Poland, etc. and are often from one to three months on the
These boats are very clumsily put together; and, when the cargo is sold, they are broken up and sold for firewood. A strange custom seems to prevail among the boatmen, in using no precaution whatever in covering the grain from the inclemency of the weather. The grain is raised up with sloping sides ; and from the moisture of the air soon assumes a green roof of vegetation, which answers the
purpose of a tarpaulin. As these boats float along the stream, numerous locks of birds regularly accompany them, and
may be seen perched on several parts of the cargo, without the least molestation.
At this stage we crossed the Vistula by a ferry. The river here is about one thousand four hundred feet in breadth, and sixteen deep. Its stream is dull and muddy,—the banks low, marshy, and covered with sedges and brush willow. From the ferry the road crosses the marsh to Marienburg, a small town of ancient respectability situated on the Nogatt, but more properly the east branch of the mouth of the Vistula.
Over the river an excellent floating bridge of boats conducts the traveller to the town. Marienburg possesses no other interest than the remains of an old castle and church, once the residence of the knights of the Teutonic order; besides some remains of Roman antiquities.
From Marienburg to Elbing, the country is a continued flat, insipid morass. along the south side of the Nogatt, which is confined within its proper bed by immense embankments. From the soft, clayey state of the roads, and the want of stones or wood to form a foundation, they become deeply rutted, and very unequal in the surface, resembling a regular series of ridges. The uneasy motion given to the carriage, in passing over these ridges, occasions a sensation similar to
The road passes