Again the sky was clear; several evenings had passed, and the Moon was in his first quarter. I again got an idea for a sketch. Listen to what the Moon told me.
"I followed the polar bird and the swimming whale to the eastern coast of Greenland. Bare rocks, covered with ice and mist, encircled a valley where twining willows and whortleberry bushes were in their fullest blossom, and the fragrant lychnis exhaled its sweet perfume. My rays were faint, my face pale as the leaf of a water lily torn from its stem and driven for weeks upon the water. The aurora borealis flamed; its ring was broad, and from it strange pillars of fire, changing from red to green, shot forth in whirling columns over the whole heavens.
"I looked down into a large theater," said the Moon. "The audience filled the house, for a new actor was making his first appearance. My rays glided through a small window in the wall, and I saw a painted face with the forehead pressed against the pane - it was the hero of the evening. The knightly beard curled around his chin, but there were tears in his eyes, for he had been hissed from the stage, and for a good reason. Poor fellow! But incompetence cannot be tolerated in the world of art. He had deep feeling, and loved his art with a fervor, but art did not love him.
"The prompter's bell tinkled. In his part was written, 'Boldly and valiantly the hero advances' - and he had to appear before an audience which ridiculed him.
The Emperor of China is a Chinaman, as you most likely know, and everyone around him is a Chinaman too. It's been a great many years since this story happened in China, but that's all the more reason for telling it before it gets forgotten.
The Emperor's palace was the wonder of the world. It was made entirely of fine porcelain, extremely expensive but so delicate that you could touch it only with the greatest of care. In the garden the rarest flowers bloomed, and to the prettiest ones were tied little silver bells which tinkled so that no one could pass by without noticing them. Yes, all things were arranged according to plan in the Emperor's garden, though how far and wide it extended not even the gardener knew. If you walked on and on, you came to a fine forest where the trees were tall and the lakes were deep. The forest ran down to the deep blue sea, so close that tall ships could sail under the branches of the trees. In these trees a nightingale lived. His song was so ravishing that even the poor fisherman, who had much else to do, stopped to listen on the nights when he went out to cast his nets, and heard the nightingale.
There is a street in Copenhagen that bears the odd name of Hysken Street. Why is it called that? And what does "Hysken mean? It is supposed to be German, but that is an injustice to the German word Häuschen, which means "small houses." Many years ago, when it was named, the houses in this street were not much more than wooden booths, almost like those we nowadays see set up in the markets - yes, a little larger, and with windows, but the panes were made only of horn or stretched bladder, for in those days glass windows were too expensive to be used in all houses. But then the time we are referring to was so long ago that when my great-grandfather's grandfather spoke of it he called it "the olden days." It was several hundred years ago.
The New Century' s Goddess - whom our great-grandchildren or perhaps a still later generation will know, but we shall not - when and how does she reveal herself? What does she look like? What is the theme of her song? Whose heartstrings will she touch? To what heights will she lift her century?
Why so many questions, in a busy day like ours, when poetry is very nearly superfluous, when it is agreed that the many "immortal" productions of today' s poets will, in the future, perhaps exist only in the form of charcoal tracings on a prison wall, seen and read only by a few curiosity seekers?
Poesy is required to serve in the ranks - at least to accept the challenge in party wars, whether it be blood or ink that flows.
One would certainly think that something quite unusual had happened in the duckpond to cause such a commotion, but nothing really had happened.
All the ducks that had been floating gracefully on the water, some standing on their heads, for they knew how to do that, now abruptly rushed straight onto land. Leaving their footprints in the wet clay, they shrieked so that one could hear them far away. The water was agitated. It had been smooth as a mirror, reflecting calmly and clearly everything around it; every tree and bush, the old peasant's cottage with holes in its gable, the swallow's nest, and especially the large rose tree whose branches and flowers covered the wall and hung almost into the water all these had been painted on the clear surface like a picture, only upside down. But now that the water was troubled, everything ran together, and the whole picture was ruined. Two feathers that had fallen from the ducks were tossed to and fro, and suddenly took flight as though carried away by the wind, yet there was no wind. And soon the feathers lay still, and the water became smooth as a mirror again, reflecting as before the peasant's cottage, the swallow's nest, and the rose tree. Each rose could see itself in the pond; all were beautiful, but they didn't know it - no one had told them so. The sun shone through their delicate petals, which were so full of fragrance, and each rose felt the way we do when we are happy in our thoughts.
Once upon a time there was an old poet-one of those good, honest old poets. One evening, as he was sitting quietly in his home, a terrible storm broke out-the rain poured down in torrents-but the old poet sat warm and cozy in his study, for a fire blazed brightly in his stove and roasting apples sizzled and hissed beside it.
"There won't be a dry stitch on anybody out in this rain," he told himself. You see, he was a very kindhearted old poet.
"Oh, please open the door for me! I'm so cold and wet!" cried a little child outside his house. Then it knocked at the door, while the rain poured down and the wind shook all the windows.
You surely remember Ole, the tower watchman. I have told you about two visits I paid him, and now I'll tell you of a third, although it won't be the last one.
I have gone up to see him generally on New Year's Day, but this time it was Moving Day, when everything down in the city streets is very unpleasant, for they are littered with heaps of rubbish and crockery and all kinds of sweepings, not to mention musty old straw that you have to trample about in. Well, there I was, and in the middle of this rubbish from attic and dustbin I saw a couple of children playing going to bed; they thought it looked so inviting there for that game. Yes, they snuggled down in the straw and drew a ragged old scrap of a curtain over them for a quilt. "That was wonderful!" they said. It was too much for me, so I hurried off to see Ole.
Whosoever could do the most incredible thing was to have the King's daughter and half of his kingdom.
The young men, yes, and the old ones too, bent their heads, their muscles, and their hearts upon winning. To do what they thought was the most incredible thing, two ate themselves to death, and one died of overdrinking. Even the boys in the street practiced spitting on their own backs, which they supposed was the most incredible thing anyone could do.
On a certain day there was to be an exhibition of things most incredible and everyone showed his best work. Judges were appointed, ranging from children of three to old men of ninety. It was a grand exposition of things out of the ordinary, but everybody promptly agreed that most incredible of all was a great hall clock - an extraordinary contraption, outside and in.
There were so many toys in the nursery. On the top of the cabinet stood the penny bank, made of clay in the shape of a little pig. Of course, he had a slit in his back, which had been enlarged with a knife so that silver dollars also could be put in; and two such dollars had been slipped into the box, along with a great number of pennies. The Money Pig was stuffed so full he could no longer rattle, which is the highest honor a Money Pig can attain. There he stood, high up on the shelf, looking down on everything else in the room. He knew very well that with what he had in his stomach he could buy all the other toys, and that's what we call having self-confidence.
The others thought the same, but they didn't speak of it, because there were so many other things to talk about. The cabinet drawer was half open, and a large doll appeared; she was somewhat old, and her neck had been riveted. She peeped out and said, "Now let's play human beings; that's always something!"