German Time Keeping

Longfellow wrote his epic poem ‘Hyperion’ in 1839, of his travels thought Germany after the death of his wife. He described several of the great clocks of  Germany.

Here he writes of  midnight bells tollling in Heidelberg:

“In conversation like this, the hours glided away, till at length, from the Giant’s Tours, the castle clock struck 12, with a sound that seemed to come from the Middle Ages,. Like watchmen from the belfries, the city clocks answered it, one by one. Then distant and muffled sounds were heard. Inarticulate words seemed to blot the foggy air, as if written on wet paper. These were the bells of Hansdscubscheim, and of other villages on the broad plain of the Rhine, and among the hills of the Odenwald, mysterious sounds that seemed not of this world.”

Here he writes of a giant clock in the “belfry of  the Kaufhaus in Coblenz is a huge head with a brazen helmet and a beard; & whenever the clock strikes, at each stroke of the hammer this Giant’s  Head opens its great jaws and smites its teeth together, as if, like the Brazen Head of Friar Bacon, it would say, ‘Time was; Time is; Time is past.’ This figure is known through all the country round about as ‘The Man in the Custom House’ and when a friend in the country meets a friend from Coblenz, instead of saying “How are all the good people in Coblentz?” He says, “How is the Man in the Custom House?” Thus the giant has a great part to play in the town.



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