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The Lorelei is a rock in the Rhine near St. Goar which is associated with several legendary tales. The tale appears in many forms, but is best known through a poem by Heinrich Heine that begins "Ich weiss nicht was soll es bedeuten" (which means in English, "I don't know what to make of it"). In the commonest form of the story, the Lorelei rock is a maiden who threw herself into the Rhine in despair over a faithless lover, and became a siren whose voice lured fishermen to destruction.

A 13th-century legend entitled Der Marner says that the Nibelungen treasure was hidden beneath the rock. The tale may be connnected with the myth of Holda, queen of the elves. The queen supposedly sits combing her locks on the Hullenstein, and the man who sees her loses sight of reason, while he who listens is condemned to wander with her for ever. The legend, which Clement Brentano claimed as his own invention when he wrote his poem ôZu Bacharach am Rheine" in his novel of Godwi (1802), bears all the marks of popular mythology. In the 19th century it formed material for a great number of songs, dramatic sketches, and operas, which are enumerated by Dr Hermann Seeliger in his Loreleysage in Dichtung und Musik (Leipzig-Reudnitz, 1898). The favourite poem with composers was Heine's, set to music by some twenty-five musicians, the settings by Friedrich Silcher (from an old folk-song) and by Liszt being the most famous.