Tracing a brief history of the German Postal System and the House of Thurn and Taxis.
By Robert A. Selig
Hoch auf dem gelben Wagen
Sitz’ ich bei’m Schwager vorn.
Vorwärts die Rosse jagen,
Lustig schmettert das Horn.
Berge und Wälder und Matten,
Möchte wohl ruhen im Schatten,
Aber der Wagen rollt.
High up on the yellow coach
I sit in front with the Postilion
Forward the horses are racing
As the post horn resounds merrily
Hills and forests and meadows,
Undulating golden heads of grain
I would rather rest in the shade
But the coach keeps on rolling.
Schwager is an antiquated term for postilion, the man carrying the post horn who rode on the near horse/left horse of a pair. And if you remember the German text differently, don’t worry as this is the original version rather than the later popularized version.
When Rudolf Baumbach wrote his poem in 1878 about the gelbe Wagen (the yellow coach) racing relentlessly through the countryside taking mail and passenger hither and yon, the age of the stagecoach and of the postilion or Postreiter, was long past. Beginning in the 1830s, never tiring railroads had slowly but surely replaced the yellow coaches drawn by horses worn out at the end of the day. The shrill sound of steam whistles had replaced the melodious tunes of the post horn that for centuries had announced the arrival of the post rider, and later that of the post coach as well. Baumbach (1840-1905), reminisced about a past he hardly knew, but some of the images and connotations evoked in Baumbach’s poem (Heinz Höhne wrote the tune in 1922) are still with us.
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