Tuesday, 25 July 2017
Two Copenhagen cameos
From a Window in Vartou
Out close to the green ramparts that surround Copenhagen lies a large, red building with many windows where balsam and sandalwood grow; poor is how it looks inside, and poor old people live there. It is called Vartou.
Look! against the window ledge an old maid is leaning, she is picking off the withered leaves from the balsam and looking out at the green ramparts where children are merrily frisking; what is she thinking about? The drama of a lifetime unfolds in her mind.
The poor small children, how happily they are playing! what rosy cheeks, what vivacious eyes – but they have neither stockings nor shoes! they are dancing on the green ramparts where, according to legend, an innocent child many years ago – when the earth there always used to cave in – was lured by flowers and toys down into the open pit, which was walled up while the young one was still playing and eating down there. The ramparts were built on top and soon a fine greensward grew there. The young children know nothing of the legend, otherwise they would hear the child still weeping underground, and the dew on the grass would seem to them to be scalding tears. They know nothing of the story about the king of Denmark who, when the enemy was outside the city, rode past here and swore he would die in his own stronghold; then women and men came who poured boiling water down over the white-clad foes who were crawling up the outside of the ramparts in the snow.
Merrily the young children play.
Play on, little girl! soon the years will come and go – yes, those wonderful years: those to be confirmed walk hand in hand, you are wearing a white dress that cost your mother plenty, even though it has been altered from a larger, old one! You get a red shawl that dangles too far down, but then people can see how large it is! You are thinking of your finery and the Good Lord. How lovely a walk along the ramparts is! And the years pass with many dark days, but with the mentality of youth, and you gain a friend, but do not know this! you meet; you walk together along the ramparts in the early spring while all the church bells ring on the national prayer day. No violets are as yet to be round, but outside Rosenborg Castle there stands a tree with its first green buds, where you both pause. Every year the tree puts forth fresh green branches, something the human heart does not do, for through it glide more dark clouds that northern climes know. Poor child, your bridegroom’s bridal chamber becomes a coffin, and you become an old maid; from Vartou you gaze from behind the balsam at the playing children, see your own story be repeated.
And it is precisely this drama of a lifetime that unfolds in the mind of the old maid gazing out at the ramparts, where the sun is shining, where the children with rosy cheeks and no stockings or shoes are rejoicing, as are all the other birds of the air.
A Cameo from the Citadel Ramparts
It is autumn, we are standing on the Citadel Ramparts looking out across the sea at the many ships and at the Swedish coast that rises high on the far side in the evening sunshine; behind us the ramparts fall sharply; there magnificent trees stand, the yellow leaves are falling from the branches; at the bottom lie dismal hovels with wooden palisades, and inside, where the sentry goes up and down, it is both cramped and cheerless, but yet gloomier behind the bars of the dungeon – there the captured slaves sit, the worst of all felons.
A ray of the setting sun slants down into the bare chamber. The sun shines alike on both wicked and good! The grim, swarthy prisoner gazes with a horrible look at the cold ray of the sun. A small bird flies up to the bars. The bird sings alike for both wicked and good! it sings a short ‘chirrup!’, but stays sitting there, shakes a wing, pecks a feather out of it, ruffles the feathers round its neck – and the wicked man in chains watches this; a milder expression passes over his horrid face; a thought that he cannot quite grasp gleams in his breast, it is akin to the sun’s ray through the bars, akin to the scent of the violets that grow so profusely outside in spring. Now the music of the huntsmen rings out, vibrant and strong. The bird flies from the bars of the dungeon, the sun’s ray disappears and it is dark inside the chamber, dark in the wicked man’s heart, but even so the sun has shone within, the bird sung within.
Play on, you beautiful notes of the hunting horn! The evening is mild, the sea as calm and still as a millpond.
Monday, 24 July 2017
In the garden all the apple trees had come out, they had speeded up their blossoming so it came before their green leaves, and in the yard all the ducklings were out as well as the cat, he was lapping up sunshine all right, lapping it off his paw; and if one looked out over the fields, the corn stood there so matchlessly green, and all the small birds were chirping and chirruping, as if some major festivity were taking place, and in a way you could say that was the case, for it was Sunday. The bells were ringing, and people were off to church in their Sunday best and they looked so content – yes, there was a contented air about everything; it was definitely a day that was so warm and wonderful that one could say: ‘How infinitely good the Lord God is towards mankind!’
But inside the church the vicar was in the pulpit and his voice was loud and wrathful; he said that people had become so ungodly, and that God would punish them for this, and that when they died those who were evil would descend into Hell, where they would burn for all eternity, and he said that their gnawing pangs would not cease and their fire never be extinguished – they would never know either rest or peace. It was awful to hear, and he said it with such conviction; he described hell to them as a foetid cave where all kinds of filth flowed together, there was no breath of air only the searing sulphurous flame, there was no solid ground beneath their feet, they sank deeper and deeper into an eternal silence. It was horrible just to hear about it, but the vicar said it all with heartfelt vehemence, and all those in the church were utterly horrified.
Outside, though, all the small birds sang so contentedly, and the sun shone so warmly, it was as if every little flower said: God is so infinitely good towards all his creation. Yes, outside things did not resemble what the vicar was saying one tiny bit.
That evening at bedtime the vicar saw his wife sitting quietly and thoughtfully: ‘Is something troubling you?’ he asked her.
‘Troubling me?’ she said, ‘well, what’s troubling me is that I seem unable to collect my thoughts properly, I cannot get the sum to add up, that there were so many ungodly people, and that they would burn for all eternity; all eternity – ah, such a long time! – I am but a sinful mortal, but I could not get my heart to let even the worst sinner burn for all eternity, and if I can’t, how could Our Lord ever be able to, he who is so boundlessly good, and who knows how evil comes both from without and from within. No, I cannot fathom it, even though you say it is so.’
It was autumn, the leaves were falling from the trees; the stern, austere vicar was sitting at the bedside of a dying person, a devout believer was about to close her eyes – it was his wife.
‘If anyone should be allowed to enjoy peace in the grave and mercy from God, it is you!’ the vicar said, and he folded her hands and read a hymn aloud over the newly departed.
And she was laid in the grave; two heavy tears rolled down the cheeks of the austere man; and in the vicarage everything was silent and empty, the sunshine within had been extinguished – she had passed away.
It was night, a chill wind blew over the vicar’s head, he opened his eyes, and it was as if the moon was shining into his living room, but the moon wasn’t shining; it was a figure standing in front of his bed; he saw the ghost of the deceased, she looked at him with intense sadness, it was as if she wanted to say something.
And the man sat up in bed, stretched his arms out towards here: ‘Have you not been granted eternal peace? Are you still suffering? You, the best and the most devout of all!’
And the deceased nodded in affirmation and placed a hand on her breast.
‘And am I able to procure peace in the grave for you?’
‘Yes!’ he seemed to hear.
‘And how can I do so?’
‘By giving me a hair, just a single hair, from the head of the sinner whose fire will never be extinguished, the sinner whom God will thrust down into hell to suffer eternal torment.’
‘It ought indeed to be that easy to redeem you, since you are so pure and pious!’ he said.
‘Follow me!’ the dead wife said. ‘This is granted us. At my side you can hover wherever you thoughts would take you; invisible to humans we stand in their most secret places, but with a sure hand you must point to the one destined to suffer eternal torment, and before cockcrow that person must be found.’
And swiftly, as if borne on the wings of thought, they were in the big city; and on the walls of the houses in letters of fire one could read the names of the deadly sins: Pride, Greed, Drunkenness, Lust – in short, the seven-hued rainbow of sin.
‘Yes, inside, as I believed, as I knew for sure, live those destined to eternal fire.’ And they stood in front of the magnificently illuminated portal, the staircase of which was resplendent with carpets and flowers, and from the festive halls came the sound of music from a ballroom. The doorkeeper stood in silk and velvet with a large, silver-topped cane.
‘Our ball can match that of the king!’ he said, and turned towards the crowds out in the street; from top to toe he expressed the thought: ‘miserable riff-raff, gaping in through the door, you are nothing but rabble, the lot of you!’
‘Pride!’ said the deceased, ‘do you see him?’
‘Him!’ the vicar repeated. ‘Yes, but he’s a fool, nothing but an idiot, and he’ll not be condemned to eternal fire and torment!’
‘Nothing but an idiot!’ it echoed through the whole House of Pride – all of those inside were certainly that.
And they flew through the naked walls of the miser, where, skinny, chattering with cold, hungry and thirsty, the old man clung to all his thoughts of his gold; they saw how, as if in a fever, he leapt out of bed and took a loose brick out of the wall, there his golden coins lay in a stocking, he fingered his ragged coat that had gold coins sewn into its lining, and his clammy fingers quivered.
‘He is ill, this is madness, a joyless madness, enveloped in fear and bad dreams!’
And they left in all haste and stood at the plank bed of incarcerated criminals, where they slept side by side in a low row. Like a wild animal one of them started up from the bed and let out a horrible scream; he dug his elbows into his comrade, who turned round sleepily:
‘Belt up, you nitwit, and sleep – you do this every night –!’
‘Every night!’ he repeated, ‘yes, every night he comes, howls and smothers me. Out of hot-headedness I once did this and that, I have been hot-tempered since birth, and this has brought me here a second time; but if I have done wrong, this is my punishment. One crime only I have not confessed. When I last got out of here and was passing my master’s house, something boiled over inside me – I struck a match against the wall, it got too close to the thatched roof, everything went up in flames, it flared up just as I do. I helped get the livestock and furniture out. Nothing living burnt to death except a flock of pigeons that flew into the fire, and the watch-dog on a chain. I had forgotten about him. You could hear him howling – and that howl I still always hear when I want to sleep, I fall asleep, and the dog comes too, so large and shaggy; he lies down on top of me, howls, squeezes, smothers me. – Listen to what I’m saying, you can snooze, snooze all night long, but I never get even a quarter of an hour.’
And the blood gleamed in the hot-tempered man’s eyes, he flung himself at his comrade and struck him in the face with a clenched fist.
‘Mad Mads has gone bonkers again!’ those around him said, and the other scoundrels grabbed hold of him, wrestled with him, thrust his head down between his legs, and bound him tightly. The blood seemed almost to be bursting out of his eyes and pores.
‘You’re killing him,’ the vicar shouted, ‘the unfortunate fellow!’ and while he stretched his hand out over the sinner to prevent this, the man who was suffering too severely for all this, the scene suddenly changed; they were flying through splendid halls and wretched rooms; Lust, Envy, all the deadly sins rushed past them, an angel of judgment read their sins, their attempts to excuse themselves; these was worthless in God’s eyes, for God reads people’s hearts, he knows everything there is to be known, the evil that comes from within and without, he who is merciful and all-loving.
The vicar’s hand shook, he did not dare stretch it out, to pluck a single hair from the sinner’s head. And the tears streamed down his face, like the waters of mercy and love that extinguished the eternal fire of hell.
Then the cock crowed.
‘Merciful God! Please grant her the peace in the grave that I have not been able to redeem.’
‘This peace I now have!’ the deceased said, ‘ it was your hard words, your sombre human beliefs about God and his creation that drove me to you! learn more about humanity – even in those who are wicked there is a tiny piece of God, something that will conquer and extinguish the fire of hell.’
And a kiss was pressed against the vicar’s mouth, everything grew bright around him; God’s bright sun shone into the room where his wife, alive, mild and loving, was rousing him from a dream sent by God.
At evening time, in the narrow streets of the large city, when the sun is setting and the cloud gleaming like gold up among the chimneys, first one person then another would often hear a strange sound, like the ringing of a church bell, but it was only audible for a moment, for there was such a rumbling of carriages and such shouting in the streets – and that is distracting. ’Now the evening-bell’s ringing!’ people said, ‘now the sun’s setting!’
Those walking outside the city, where the houses were further apart, with gardens and small fields, saw the evening sky in greater magnificence and heard a far louder chiming of the bell, it was as if the sound came from a church deep within the silent, strong-scented forest; and people looked towards it, and became quite solemn. –
Many a time one person would say to the other: ‘Can there possibly be a church out there in the forest? That bell really has such a strange, delightful sound, perhaps we ought to go and take a closer look at it.’ And the rich people rode in carriages and the poor people walked on foot, but it seemed to them that the road was so remarkably long, and when they came to where quite a few willow trees grew on the edge of the forest, they sat down and looked up at the long branches and thought they really were in the great outdoors; the confectioner from inside the city came out there and put up his tent, and another confectioner came and hung up a bell right over this tent, and it was a bell that had been tarred, so it could withstand the rain, and the clapper was missing. And when people set off homewards again, they said it had been so romantic, by which they meant something quite unlike ordinary afternoon tea. Three people swore that they had forced a path right through the forest to where it ended, and all the time they had heard the strange sound of the bell, but to them it almost seemed to have come from inside the city; one of them wrote a whole song about it and said that the bell sounded like a mother’s voice to a much-loved, wise child – no melody was more beautiful than the sound of the bell.
It came to the notice of the emperor of the country and he promised that the person who could ascertain for sure where the sound came from would be granted the title of ‘The World’s Bell-Ringer’, even if it turned out not to be the sound of a bell.
Now many people went off to the forest for the sake of a good livelihood, but there was only one person who came back with any sort of explanation, no one had been deep enough into the forest, himself included, but he said even so that the bell-sound came from a large owl in a hollow tree, it was a kind of wisdom-owl that constantly hit its head against the tree, but if the sound came from its head or from the hollow trunk he was unable to state categorically as yet, and so he was given the title of ‘The World’s Bell-Ringer’ and every year he wrote a small dissertation about the owl; but no one was any the wiser.
It was now a church confirmation day, the vicar had spoken so beautifully and fervently; those to be confirmed had been so moved, it was an important day for them, all of a sudden they changed from being children to adults, their childlike soul was, so to speak, to fly over into a more sensible person. It was a beautifully sunny day, the confirmands went out of the city, and from the forest the great unknown bell chimed remarkably loudly. Immediately, they felt this strong urge to enter the forest, all of them but three: one wanted to go home and try out her ball gown, for it was precisely because of that gown and that ball that she had taken part this time, for otherwise she would not have bothered; the second was a poor boy who had borrowed his confirmation jacket and boots from his landlord’s son and they had to be handed back at an agreed time; the third said that he never went to any unknown location without having his parents with him, and that he had always been a dutiful child and intended to remain so, even as a confirmand, and that was not to be made fun of! – but people did so.
Three of them, then, did not go along with the others, who set off at a good pace; the sun shone and the birds sang and the confirmands sang too and held each other by the hand, for none of them had yet held a position in society and all of them were confirmands in the eyes of Our Lord.
Soon, however, two of the smallest grew tired and turned back towards the city; two small girls sat down and wove garlands, they didn’t join the rest, and when the others reached the willow trees where the confectioner lived, they said: ‘well, now we’ve arrived; the bell doesn’t really exist, it’s just something one imagines!’
At that very moment, the bell sounded from deep in the forest, so sweetly and solemnly that four or five decided even so to go further into the forest. It was so dense, so thick with foliage, it was extremely difficult to force a path through it, woodruff and anemones grew almost too tall, flowering bindweed and brambles hung in long garlands from tree to tree, where the nightingale sang and the sunbeams played; oh it was so wonderful, but there was no path for the girls to take, their dresses would get torn to shreds. There were large boulders covered with moss of every colour, the fresh spring-water welled up and made a strange sound, rather like ‘glug, glug!’
‘That can’t be the bell, can it?’ one of the confirmands said, and lay down to listen. ‘That’s got to be studied more closely!’ and he stayed there and let the others move on.
They came to a house of bark and branches, a large tree with wild apples leant down over it as if it wanted to shake all its blessings out over the roof where roses bloomed; the long branches lay right down by the gable, and on it there hung a small bell. Could it possibly be what they had heard. Well, everyone agreed, except for one person who said that this bell was too small and fine to be audible at as great a distance as they had heard it, and that it was completely different notes that so touched a human heart; the one who spoke was a king’s son, and then the others said ‘people like him always want to sound cleverer than the rest’.
So they let him go off on his own, and the further he went, the more his breast felt full of forest-loneliness; but he could still hear the little bell that the other were so satisfied with, and when the wind came from the direction of the confectioner, he could also hear how there was tea-time afternoon singing; but the deep chiming of the bell sounded even more strongly, soon it was as if an organ was accompanying it, the sound came from the left, from the side where the heart sits.
There was a rustling in the bushes, and there a young body stood before the king’s son, a boy in wooden clogs and with a shirt so short that one could seen just how long his wrists were. The two knew each other, the boy was precisely one of the confirmands who couldn’t come because he had to go home and hand back the jacket and boots to the landlord’s son; that he had done and, now wearing his clogs and poor clothes, he had gone off on his own, for the bell chimed so loudly and deeply that he simply had to follow the sound.
‘So now we can search together!’ the king’s son said. But the poor confirmand with clogs on was rather shy about this, tugged at his short sleeves and said: he was afraid he couldn’t keep up, besides which he thought the bell should be sought on the right, for that side had everything that was fine and splendid.
‘Well, in that case we won’t meet up!’ the king’s son said and nodded to the poor boy, who entered the darkest, densest part of the forest where the thorns town his poor clothes to shreds and scratched his face, hands and feet till they bled. The king’s son also got some hefty scratches, but the sun did at least light up his path, and he is the one we will now follow, for he was a strapping young man.
‘I simply will and must find the bell!’ he said, ‘even if I have to go to the world’s end!’
The horrid monkeys sat up in the trees and grinned, showing all their teeth. ‘Let’s pelt him!’ they said; ‘let’s pelt him – he’s a king’s son!’
But he pushed on undaunted, deeper and deeper into the forest, where the strangest of flowers grew, there were white camases with blood-red filaments, sky-blue tulips that sparkled in the wind, and apple trees that looked exactly like large, iridescent soap-bubbles, just think how they must gleam when the sun shines on them. Fringing the loveliest of green fields, where hart and hind played in the grass, grew magnificent oak and beech trees, and if one of the trees had a rift in its bark, grass grew in long strands in the rift; there were also large expanses of forest with still lakes where white swans swam and flapped their wings. The king’s son frequently stood still and listened, often he believed that the bell chimed up to him from one of these deep lakes, but then he noticed that it was not from them, but even deeper in the forest that the bell sounded.
Now the sun began to set, the air gleamed red, like fire, it became so still, so still in the forest, and he sank to his knees, sang his evening hymn and said: ‘I will never find what I am seeking! now the sun is setting, night is coming, the dark night; though I may perhaps be able to see the round, red sun just once more before it sinks completely behind the earth; I will climb up onto those rocks there that soar up to the height of the tallest trees!’
And he grabbed hold of mounds and roots, clambered up the slippery stones where the water snakes twisted and turned, where the toads seemed to bark at him; - but he nevertheless managed to get to the top before the sun had completely set, seen from this height – oh, what magnificence! The sea, the great marvellous sea that rolled its long waves in towards the shore, was stretched out before him, and the sun stood like a huge gleaming altar out there where the sea and sky met, everything merged and melted in glowing colours, the forest sang and the sea sang and his heart joined in their singing; all of nature was one great holy church in which trees and floating clouds were the columns, flowers and grass the cloth of woven velvet and the sky itself was the huge dome: up there the reds were extinguished as the sun disappeared, but millions of stars were lit, millions of diamond lamps then gleamed, and the king’s son spread out his arms towards the sky, towards the sea and the forest, - and at that moment, from the right aisle, came in his short sleeves and wooden clogs the poor confirmand; he had reached the place just as quickly, although having followed his own path, and they ran towards each other and held hands in the great church of nature and poetry, and above them sounded the invisible holy bell, blessed spirits did an airy dance around it to a joyful hallelujah!
Sunday, 23 July 2017
Ogier the Dane
There is an old castle in Denmark by the name of Kronborg, it lies directly overlooking the Sound, where hundreds of large ships sail past every day, British, Russian and Prussian; and they salute the castle as they sail past with cannons: ‘boom!’ and the castle replies with cannons: ‘boom!’ for that’s how the cannons say ‘Good day!’, ‘Many thanks!’ – In winter no ships sail past, for then ice covers the Sound right across to the land of Sweden and it is just like a regular highway, there the Danish flag flutters and there the Swedish flag, and the Danish and Swedish peoples say to each other ‘Good day!’, ‘many thanks!’ but not with cannons, no with friendly handshakes, and the one fetches wheat bread and pretzels from the other, for foreign fare tastes best. But the jewel in the crown is nevertheless old Kronborg and the fact that beneath it Ogier the Dane sits in the deep, dark cellar where no one comes, he is clad in iron and steel and supports his head on his strong arms; his long beard hangs down over the marble table to which it has become firmly attached, he sleeps and dreams, but in his dreams he sees everything that happens up here in Denmark. Every Christmas Eve and angel of God comes and tells him that what he has dreamt is true, and that he can go back to sleep, for Denmark is as yet not in any real danger! but should such danger arise, well, then Ogier the Dane will rise to his feet and the table will split when he tugs up his beard! then he will come out and strike a blow that can be heard in every country in the world.
An old grandfather sat telling all this about Ogier the Dane to his young grandson, and the little boy knew that what his grandfather said was true. And while the old man told about him, he carved away at a large wooden figurehead that was to represent Ogier the Danes and be placed at the front of a ship, for the old grandfather was a ship’s woodcarver, which is a man who does figureheads according to what name the ship is going to have, and now he had carved Ogier the Dane standing so proudly with his long beard and holding in one hand his broadsword, but with his other hand on the Danish coat of arms.
And the old grandfather told so much about remarkable Danish men and women that the young grandson finally thought that he now knew as much as Ogier the Danes could possibly know as he only dreamt about it; and when the little boy went to bed, he thought so much about it that he pressed his chin hard into the duvet and felt that he had a long beard that had become firmly attached to it.
But the old grandfather kept on with his work and carved the last section of it, the Danish coat of arms; and then he had finished and he looked at all of it and thought about everything he had read and heard about what he had told the little boy that evening; and he nodded and wiped his spectacles, put them back on his nose and said: ‘Ah yes, Ogier the Dane will hardly come in my lifetime! but perhaps the boy will get to see him and be there when the country’s fate is in the balance,’ and the old grandfather nodded, and the more he looked at his Ogier the Dane, the more obvious it became to him that he had carved a good figurehead; it really seemed to fill with colour, the harness gleaming like iron and steel; the hearts in the Danish coat of arms grew redder and redder and the lions leapt with golden crowns on their heads.
‘It really is the loveliest coat of arms anyone has in the whole world!’ the old man said. ‘The lions represent strength and the hearts gentleness and love!’ and he looked at the uppermost lion and thought of King Canute, who linked great England to the Danish throne, and he looked at the second lion and thought of Waldemar, who gathered together the Danish realm and subdued the Wendish countries; he looked at the third lion and thought of Margrethe, who united Denmark, Sweden and Norway; but when he looked at the red hearts, they shone even more brightly that before and turned into flames.
The first flame led him into a cramped, dark prison cell; there a prisoner sad, a lovely woman, Christian IV’s daughter: Leonora Ulfeldt; and the flame came to rest like a rose on her breast and flowered along with her heart, she who was the noblest and best of all Danish women.
‘Yes, this is a heart in Denmark’s coat of arms!’ the old grandfather said.
And his thoughts followed the flame, which led him out onto the sea, where the cannons thundered, where the ships lay shrouded in smoke, and the flame attached itself like the ribbon of an order to the breast of Hvitfeldt as he blew up his ship in order to save the fleet.
And the third flame led him to the abject huts of Greenland, where the clergyman Hans Egede stood with love in both word and deed; the flame was a star on his breast, a heart in the Danish coat of arms.
And the old grandfather’s thoughts went ahead of the hovering flame, for he knew where the flame wished to go. In the humble living room of the peasant’s wife stood Frederik VI and wrote his name in chalk on the beam; the flame quivered on his breast, quivered in his heart; in that peasant’s living room his heart became a heart in the Danish coat of arms. And the old grandfather dried his eyes, for he had known and lived for King Frederik with his silvery hair and honest blue eyes, and he folded his hands and gazed quietly in front of him. Then his daughter-in-law came in and told him that it was late, that he was to rest, and that the supper table had been laid.
‘But what a lovely carving you’ve done, grandfather!’ she said. ‘Ogier the Dane and all of our ancient coat of arms! – It’s as if I had seen that face before!’
‘No, I hardly think you have!’ the old grandfather said, ‘but I have seen it, and I had tried to carve it in wood as I remember it. It was when the British fleet was At Reden, and the Danish off Copenhagen on the Second of April that we showed we were true old Danes! On the good ship “Denmark” where I was in Steen Bille’s squadron, I had a man at my side; it was as if the bullets were afraid of him! he merrily sang old songs and shot and fought as if he were more than a human being. I still remember his face; but where he came from and what became of him nobody knows. I have often thought that it was old Ogier the Dane himself who had swum down from Kronborg and helped us in our hour of danger; that was what I thought, and there you have his portrait!’
And it cast its large shadow right up the wall, even taking in part of the ceiling, it looked as if it was the real Ogier the Dane himself standing behind it, for the shadow moved, but it was also able to do so because the flame of the candle was not burning steadily. And the daughter-in-law kissed the old grandfather and led him to the large armchair in front of the table, and she and her husband, who was of course the old man’s son and the father of the little boy lying in bed, sat and ate their supper, and the old grandfather talked about the Danish lions and the Danish hearts, about strength and gentleness, and explained quite clearly that there was yet another strength than that which lay in the sword, and he pointed to the shelf with old books on them, where all of Holberg’s comedies lay, those plays that were so often read because they were so amusing, one felt one really knew all the characters from the old days in them.
‘See, he knew how to carve too!’ the old grandfather said; ‘he has carved the mad and uncouth side of people to the best of his ability!’ and the old grandfather nodded towards the mirror, where the calendar stood with ‘The Round Tower’ and said ‘Tycho Brahe, he was another one who used the sword, not to carve people’s flesh and blood, but to carve a clearer path up among all the stars of heaven!’ – And he too, whose father was of my occupation, the son of the old wood carver, he whom we ourselves have seen with his white hair and strong shoulders, he who is mentioned in every country of the world! yes, he was a real carver, I’m just a whittler! Yes, Ogier the Dane can come in many shapes and forms, so that all the countries of the world will come to hear of Denmark’s strength. Let us drink a toast to Bertel Thorvaldsen’!’
But the little boy in bed could clearly see old Kronborg down by the Sound, the real Ogier the Dane who sad deep down in the cellar with his beard firmly attached to the marble table, dreaming about everything that happens up here; Ogier the Dane also dreamt about the humble room where the figurehead carver sat, he heard everything that was spoken and nodded in his dreams and said:
‘Just remember me, you Danish people! keep me in your thoughts! I will come in your hour of need!’ And outside Kronborg the sun shone from a blue sky and the wind bore the notes of the hunting horn across the Sound from the neighbouring country, the ships sailed past and gave their greeting: ‘boom! boom!’ and from Kronborg came the reply: ‘boom! boom!’, but Ogier the Dane did not wake up no matter how loud the shooting of the cannons was, for it was nothing more than ‘Good day!’ – ‘Many thanks!’ It will take a different kind of shooting to wake him; but one day he will awaken, for there’s mettle a-plenty in Ogier the Dane!’