And this eternal trouble-maker, the forest, which, however, as we have noticed, always gets the worst of it in every disturbance, is at the same time a powerful safeguard for historic customs. Under its protection not only an ancient nationality but also the oldest remains of historic monuments have been preserved to us. Many of the most remarkable old names have been retained for us in the appellations of the forest districts. When German philology has finished investigating the names of villages and cities, it will turn to the names of the forest districts—which, for the most part, have changed far less than those of the districts of the plain—as to a new and rich source of knowledge. It is almost without exception under the shelter of the forest-thickets that have been conserved until the present day the town-walls of the nations which, in prehistoric times, occupied our provinces, as well as the graves and sacrificial places of our forefathers, which are our oldest monuments. And while, in the name of a purely manufacturing civilization, it has been proposed to destroy our German forests, they alone have guarded for us in their shade the earliest speaking witnesses of national industry. In the mountain-forests of the middle Rhine one often finds large dross-heaps on sequestered hill tops, far from brooks and water courses. These are the places where stood the primeval “forest smithies,” whose forges were perhaps worked with the hand or the foot, and of which our heroic legends sing; these are the scenes of the first rude beginnings of our iron industry which, since then, has developed so mightily. Thus the oldest information that we possess on the subject of our German manufacturing industry starts, like our entire civilization, in the forest.
For centuries it was fitting that progress should advocate exclusively the rights of the field; now, however, it is fitting that progress should advocate the rights of the wilderness together with the rights of the cultivated land. And no matter how much the political economist may oppose and rebel against this fact, the folk-lorist economist must persevere, in spite of him, and fight also for the rights of the wilderness.
By WILHELM HEINRICH RIEHL
In topographical books of the pigtail age one may read that cities like Berlin, Leipzig, Augsburg, Darmstadt, Mannheim are situated in “an exceedingly pretty and agreeable region,” whereas the most picturesque parts of the Black Forest, the Harz Mountains, and the Thuringian Forest are described as being “exceedingly melancholy,” desolate and monotonous, or, at least, “not especially pleasing.” That was by no means merely the private opinion of the individual topographer but the opinion of the age; for each century has not only its own peculiar theory of life—it has also its own peculiar theory oL natural scenery.