H. C. (Hans Christian) Andersen.

A poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient online

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The road was on an ascent, and always amongst trees ; a
magnificent olive grove was before the town. A strange tone
of atmosphere enveloped the large, extended Campagna. That
blueness, that violet color in the mountains far distant and
close by us, and the dark green in the leaves of the trees, had
an imposing effect. The sun, as it went down, cast a red,
fiery light on the trunks of the trees ; they appeared to be
gilded ; the sound of bagpipes was heard under the declivity
of the mountain. The whole was a picture of a fine southenj
evening's delicious tranquillity. With the buoyancy of youth,
we all three exulted in this beautiful expanse of nature.
1 Conrad Rothe, the poet H. P. Hoist, and the author.



THE CASCADES OF TIVOLt. 103

The sun went down at no great distance from that point in
the horizon where the dome of St. Peter's rose enthroned,
and it was soon dark evening. We wandered through the
dusky streets to the opposite side of the town ; to Albergo
del Sibilla, which takes its name from the old Sibyl's temple,
that is built to the very edge of the precipice overhanging the
foaming waters. We heard from the road the wild continuous
thunder of the large cascades. A guide lighted his torch ;
another followed us with two large bundles of hay, which
were to be lighted in the grottoes in front of the falling waters.
It was almost entirely dark in the little garden without ; the
flame of the torch merely illumined the nearest hedges. The
sky was covered with stars, but they shed no light. We fol-
lowed a little path between the bushes, ever on the descent,
and were all the while deafened by the roar of the water-fall
below us. That we were only able to see the nearest objects
around the guide, who bore the burning torch, and that all the
rest lay in utter darkness, gave a touch of the romantic to the
adventure. Not one of us knew whether the abyss in which
we heard the water foaming was behind the nearest hedges, or
close by the green sward on which we sometimes trod.

The path soon became quite narrow ; we had the steep rock
to the right, the abyss to the left ; the guide struck his torch
upon the ground, so that it was almost extinguished, then
swung it in the air, and it again threw out aflame, whilst the
pitch-black smoke whirled away over the glittering leaves of
the trees.

All at once he stopped, uttered a wild shout, and pointed
upward to the inn. Aloft on the edge of the rock and di-
rectly over us lay the round Sibyl's temple. They had lighted
a bundle of hay between the columns ; the fire threw a flam-
ing light on the pillars and walls, which looked as if they con-
tained a burnt-offering ; the waters still sang their majestic
hymn with the same voice of thunder as on one of those
nights consecrated to the goddesses ! For a second the whole
temple was surrounded with rays of the most exuberant light,
and then it was again night dark night.

We held on our way down the narrow path : incrustations
hung in picturesque diversity over our heads ; close to us was



IO4 * POETS BAZAAR.

a declivity how deep was this? The light from the torch
disclosed no bottom : the waters roared quite near us. We
had to hold on by the green hedges that we might not fall
into the deep. The cliffs, like a natural staircase, soon led us
into the Siren's grotto. In order to understand each other we
were obliged to shout at the very top of our voices, for the
cascades rush through the grotto with an almost deafening
sound. Fire was quickly set to a bundle of hay ; the clear
flame lighted up the cavern, which was dripping with water.

The red flame of the fire played on the white watery col-
umn, which, with the lightning's speed dashed from an im-
mense height, and forced its way through an opening in the
cliff. The guide threw out burning hay upon the foaming
stream, and the hay burnt as the water whirled it along into
the yawning abyss, and for a moment it showed us the deep
whirlpool.

A few years ago, a young Englishman slid from one of the
slipper}' stones where a little cross-beam is now placed, and
disappeared forever. The now reigning Pope, 1 Gregory
XVI., to prevent the town from falling in suddenly, for it
is undermined by the many water-falls, has made a new
outlet to the river Anio, which outlet forms the cascades, so
that by these means a water-fall has been produced, which in
size surpasses all the others. When I visited Tivoli in 1834,
this work was in operation, and was completed two years
afterward ; where I then walked and plucked flowers, there
now foams, and perhaps forever will foam, Tivoli's largest
cascade. To this cascade we now directed our steps ; but we
were first obliged to ascend the rugged and slippery steps.
We had again to hold fast by the fresh myrtle branches close
by the precipice ; and at this critical moment, in a situation of
imminent peril, the torch went quite out. The thought ran
through me that we must remain here for the night, that we
must sit down In the hedges, and not move a foot or it is
death. A moment of dead silence followed : the torch flew
whizzing in the air ; the guide had thrown it with all his
strength against the rock. The flame blazed faintly again, and

1 It may be unnecessary to tell our readers that, since Andersen wrote
this work, Pope Gregory XVI. has been succeeded by Pius IX. 7><i*



MY BOOTS. JO5

soon after gave a brilliant light. He now went brisker forward
up a broader path, singing as he went. By degrees everything
showed the influence of art over nature. Here were strong
railings and walled stairs, with a steep descent. The torch
shone over the balustrade ; a cloud of water broken into foam
rose up toward us. The whole stream fell into the dark,
giddy deep, looking like the whitest milk. We passed through
a long arch in which the river had its new bed, and through
which it approached the fall with the swiftness of an arrow.
Here was no balustrade ; the torch lighted up the stream,
burning hay was thrown into it, and it glided swift as the flight
of a bird into the dizzy pool. I felt all my nerves assailed ;
I was obliged to cling to the wall, and fix my eye for a time
on the firm arch above me. It was impossible to understand
one another here, so loud was the roaring of the powerful
stream. Half an hour afterward we all three sat in a large
room above the falls, around a well furnished table. We
spoke of Denmark and of all our dear friends ; healths were
drunk to them, whilst the cascades and cataracts thundered
in chorus.

It was an evening full of poetry. We stood arm in arm by
the open window ; the stars glistened so brightly that we
could discern the foaming masses of water like a white veil in
the depth below us. They joined in with their loud and eter-
nal song a song such as no poet can sing.



XIII.

MY BOOTS.
A TRUE STORY.

THERE is a street in Rome which is called Via Purificazione,
but we cannot say of it that it is purified. It is an up and
down sort of place ; cabbage stalks and old broken pots lie
strewn round about ; the smoke rolls out of the door of
the osteria, and Signora opposite nay I cannot help it, but
it is true Signora opposite shakes her sheets out of the win-
dow every morning. In this street there are generally many



IO6 A POET'S BAZAAR.

strangers ; but this year most of them remained at Napies
and Florence, for fear of the fever and pestilential sickness
that was in Rome. I lived quite alone in a large-house, not
even the host or hostess slept there at night.

It was a large, cold house, with a little wet garden, in which
there were only a row of pease and a half-blown gillyflower ;
yet in the neighboring gardens, which were at a higher eleva-
tion, stood blooming hedge-rows with monthly roses, and trees
full of yellow citrons. The latter bore the continual rain well ;
but the roses, on the contrary, appeared as if they had lain
for a week in the sea.

The evenings were so lonesome in the cold, large rooms ;
the black chimney yawned between the windows, and out of
doors were rain and drizzle. All the doors were well secured
with locks and iron bars ; but of what use were they ? The
wind whistled and screeched through the crevices in the doors ;
the few sticks in the chimney blazed up, but they did not throw
any warmth into the room ; the cold stone floor, the raw walls,
and the high ceiling, seemed only to be adapted for the sum-
mer season.

If I would make myself comfortable, I was obliged to put
on my fur-lined travelling boots, surtout, cloak, and fur cap ;
yes, then it was well enough ! It is true, that side which was
turned toward the fire-place was half roasted : but in this
world one must know how to change sides, and so I turned,
like a sunflower.

The evenings were somewhat long, but then my teeth began
to give some nervous concerts, and it was remarkable how
they improved in dexterity. A real Danish toothache is not
to be compared to an Italian one. Pain played on the keys of
the teeth, as if it were a Liszt or a Thalberg. Sometimes it
rumbled in the foreground, and then anon in the background,
as when two martial bands answer each other, whilst a large
front tooth sang the prima donna's part with all the trills,
roulades, and cadences of torture. There was such harmony
and power in the whole, that I at last felt no longer like a hu-
man being !

From an evening it slid into a night concert, and it was dur
ing such a one, whilst the windows shook with the storm, and



MY BOOTS. 1O7

the rain poured down without, that I cast a half melancholy
look at the night lamp. My writing materials stood by it, and
I saw quite distinctly that the pen danced over the white
paper, as if led by an invisible hand ; but it was not so, it did
it of its own accord. It wrote after dictation and who dic-
tated ? Yes, it sounds strange, but it is true. I say it, and
you will believe me it was my boots, my old Copenhagen
boots, which, because they were soaked through with the rain,
had earned a place in the chimney by the red embers. If I
suffered from toothache, they also suffered from water-ache ;
they dictated their own biography, and this I think will throw
a light on the Italian winter of 1840-41.

The Boots said :

" We are two brothers, right boot and left boot. Our first
remembrance is, that we were well rubbed in with wax, and
then extremely well brushed up and polished. I could see
myself in my brother, and he could see himself in me ; and
we saw that we were one body, a sort of Castor and Pollux, a
species of Siamese twins, whom fate had determined should
live and die, exist and not exist with each other. We were
both born in Copenhagen.

" The shoemaker's boy carried us in his hand forth into the
world, and the first glimpse awakened sweet but false expecta-
tions about our destination. He to whom we were consigned
immediately pulled us by the ears till we closed round his
legs, and then he went down the stairs with us. We creaked
with joy. It rained outside, but we still creaked ; but only
the first day.

" Alas ! how much wet there is to get through in this world !
We were not born to be water-proof boots, and therefore did
not feel ourselves happy. No brush gave us the lustre of our
youth ; this lustre we possessed when the shoemaker's boy
carried us in his hand through the streets ; who can therefore
depict our happiness when we one morning heard that we
were to travel abroad yes, to Italy, that sunny, warm land,
where we should tread on marble and classic ground, drink
in the warm sunbeams, and surely regain our youthful lustre.
We travelled. During the longest routes we slept in the port-
manteau and dreamed of the warm lands. In the towns, on



I08 A POET'S BAZAAR.

the contrary, we looked well about us, but it was wet and ra*
as in Denmark. Our soles got a gangrene ; they were obliged
to be parted from the body in Munich, and we found ourselves
with new soles instead : but they were made as well as if they
had been born with us. 'Were we but over the Alps,' we
sighed ; 'it is fine and mild there.' And we got over the
Alps, but it was not fine and mild there ! it rained and it
blew : and if we happened now and then to tread on marble,
it was so icy cold, that the marble drew the cold perspiration
out of our soles, and the damp traces of them remained where
we had trodden.

" It was quite lively in the evening when the waiter num-
bered all the boots and shoes in the hotel ; we were placed in
a row amongst these foreign comrades, and heard from them
about the places they came from. There was a pair of beauti-
ful red morocco bodies with black feet (I think it was in
Bologna), and they told us about the warm summer in Rome
and Naples ; they told us about their climbing up Vesuvius,
where the feet were burnt off them by the subterranean heat ;
alas ! we almost desired to die in such a manner. ' Were we
but over the Apennines ! were we but in Rome 1 ' and we
went there ! But now we have groveled in rain and sludge
week after week ! But one must see all things, we suppose,
and there will never be an end, either of curiosities or pouring
rain ! Not a warm ray has refreshed us ; the cold wind has
gamboled around us ! O Rome ! Rome ! to-night, for the
first time, we will drink warmth from the blessed chimney,
and we will drink till we burst ! The upper leathers are all
gone, and our bodies are giving way : they will burst too !
But before we die this happy death, we wish this our history
to be noted down, and our dead bodies brought to Berlin to
rest with him who has had courage and manliness enough to
depict ' Italien wie es ist /' to the truth-loving Nicolai " and
having said thus much, the boots fell together.

It was quite still ; my night lamp went out ; I dozed a little,
and when I awoke in the morning, I thought it was a dream ;
but I looked into the chimney ; the boots were quite shrunk
up ; they stood like mummies standing amid the cold ashes.
I looked at the paper as it lay by my lamp ; it was a gray



THE EMPEROR'S CASTLE.



109



paper full of ink spots ; the pen had really passed over it, but
the words had all run into each other, for the pen had written
the boots' memoirs on gray paper. I noted down what I still
remembered ; and the reader will recollect that it is not I, but
my boots, who cry " Woe ! " to la bella Italia I



XIV.

THE EMPEROR'S CASTLE.

HOWEVER bad the winter may be in Rome, it yet has days
beautiful as the finest spring days in the North. We feel a
desire to go forth into the green fields and gardens : and both
are to be found there. The roses stand in flower ; the laurel
hedges shed their perfume ; we have many places to choose
from for our promenade. We will now visit the ruins of the
Emperor's Castle. They lie on a whole mountain plain or
table-land in the middle of the city. Here are vineyards, gar-
dens, ruins, and miserable houses ; here are fruitful, arable
land, and barren spots where the ass munches its thistle, and
the goats seek the mossy grass.

Out toward the Forum there still stands a row of firm
walls. Large hedges and hanging plants spring over the
slope like the waters of a cascade ; tall cypresses carry their
heads aloft, towering above the rest ; we saunter down the
broad carriage road, and stand before a villa in the midst of a
garden so green and fragrant that we cannot believe it to be
winter, and we are in the month of January. Mignonnette,
gillyflowers, and roses spread their perfumes around ; citrons
and oranges shine on the trees through the dark leaves. We
stroll through an avenue of laurel-trees toward a natural bal-
cony which the wall presents toward the Campagna ; we see
below us the solitary tombs of the dead, the yellow winding
Tiber, and far in the distant horizon a crystal stripe : that is
the Mediterranean.

In the midst of the garden which we enter are two consid-
erable openings in the earth ; they are quite round, and from
the topmost edge to the bottom, as far down as one can see,



IIO A POETS BAZAAR.

they are covered with luxuriant evergreens. One might sup-
pose that each of them was a crater, which, instead of lava and
ashes, threw up flowers and shrubs, with which the whole ex-
tensive ruin would in time be covered. Under these open-
ings are large vaults, so deep that the daylight cannot reach
the bottom. Here, where perhaps the marble basin once
stood, and beautiful women bathed their graceful limbs, sur-
rounded by the rays of a thousand lamps ; where the incense
shed its perfume, and where song and stringed instruments
resounded, there now hops a clammy frog. Perhaps it is one
of those mighty empresses, herself doomed to drag her wet,
heavy limbs along in the dark below, where she, in by-gone
days, hatched wicked, murderous thoughts !

Stay there below in the darkness of night, thou unhappy
one ! Here above the roses bloom ; the warm sunbeams kiss
the laurel-tree's green leaves, and the stranger drinks in a
beautiful draught of the South that will never be obliterated
from his mind.

We wander away from these luxuriant green gulfs, and fol-
low the path that winds between flowering shrubs over steep
declivities, and a wooden staircase leads us, down into another
part of the castle, to a cabbage-garden. The mosaic floor has
disappeared, the rain-worm crawls forth from the wet earth,
where in former times Rome's emperor with his court sat
round the groaning board. Here the precious dishes sent
forth their savory odors: here were flamingo tongues, and
peacocks' hearts ; here, during the meal, those great ones of
the earth changed their rich apparel ; here they displayed
themselves in their false locks, painted skin and eyebrows,
gold dust in the hair, and with shoes whose soles were per-
fumed with salve. The poor gold-laced slave stood as immov-
able as the cabbage stalk now ; if he coughed or sneezed he
was cast into the fish-pond to feed the fishes that were to grace
the emperor's table.

How many reminiscences are connected with this place,
where Caligula, Commodus, and Tiberius reigned. The poet
casts these mad emperors' names with disdain into the world,
where curses will be heaped upon them till the day of judg-
ment ! Even the school-boy in the smallest town in the fai



ST. CANUTE. I I I

North shakes his little fist, and cannot pray to God for these
wicked men.

These corrupt spirits hover above the ruins of the Emperor's
Castle ; they fly with the rapidity of thought around the world,
and only rest where a curse is pronounced over their lives and
actions ! Fly over sea and land ! No relationship, no polit-
ical connection, nothing screens you now you stand alone !
Man judges ! God forgives !

Where extravagance and luxury poured out its cornucopia
there now grows the frugal cabbage ; the walls which in-
closed those sensual vices now bear the fig-tree's broad leaf
of modesty, and the peaceful olive grows where blood once
flowed. We will remember Titus, remember the noble-minded,
whose life casts a lustre on remembrance ; we will look at the
beautiful scented roses, and forget that fallen greatness in the
charms of eternal nature !



XV.



ST. CANUTE.

DENMARK is certainly a Protestant land ; but the names of
many of its saints live in Rome in the mouths of the people,
or are connected with one or other place.

In many a Danish village church is still to be seen the
image of Madonna, either painted high up on the walls
under the lofty ceiling where it is not whitened over, or even
on the altar-piece. The church-bells in the Danish villages
ring at sunset, as they did in the time of Catholicism, the Are
Maria.

St. Canute was the first saint I heard named when a
child, though my Lutheran Catechism did not mention a word
about saints. A fine old church, in my native town, bears the
name of this saint, whose bones rest behind its altar.

St. Canute was once a greater saint than king in Den-
mark ; a thousand lights burned at his altar, and the guild
statutes boasted his name. When a child, I heard the history
of this Danish king, who, because he laid a tax on the Jut-



112 A POET'S BAZAAR.

landers was pursued by them to Funen. He rested on the
way thither, and the stone on which he sat was much softer
than the hearts of his enemies : we yet see the traces on the
stone upon which he sat. I saw it when a child, and I be-
lieved the legend. The King sought refuge in the Church of
St. Alban, in Odense j his enemies flocked thither, and
his own servant, Blake, was the betrayer of his master. 1 A
stone was thrown through the church window ; it struck the
King on the head, and he sank in his own blood before the
high altar, where he prayed. His relics were revered and he
was made a saint ; even in Rome an altar was raised to his
memory.

When a child I never passed St. Canute's Church in the
evening without shutting my eyes ; and then I always saw
most distinctly the pale, dead King, with the gold crown on
his bleeding head, and clad in his mantle of velvet and
ermine, gliding beneath the lofty arch from the font up to the
altar.

On the right hand side of the street, leading from the
Castle of St. Angelo toward Piazza di San Pietro in Rome,
there is a monk's clofster with a church, I believe it is called
Transmontane, and amongst the many altars within it is
one consecrated to the Danish King Canute. He stands in
the altar-piece with his gold crown on, and in a mantle of
velvet and ermine, just as when a child I imagined him to be,
wandering in the church which contains his bones.

The nineteenth of January, according to the " Diario Ro-
mano," is the feast of St. Canute. The rain poured down,
and it was miserable weather ; but as a Dane I could not do
otherwise than go to see the Danish saint's feast celebrated.

I entered the church : there was not a being there ; two
small tallow candles burned so dimly and looked so sordid,
and these stood on the altar of St. Canute.

I could not bear the thought of it ; I must at least know
why a little more was not done for him. I rang the bell to
the cloister, and an old monk came out. I asked him why
St. Canute had no more than two candles, and why there
was no music or other festival ceremony.

1 From this comes the Danish saying, " false Blake."



THE COLISEUM. \ \ $

" Alas, sir ! " said the monk, " our cloister is one of the
poorest in all Rome ! We can only afford to celebrate one
great festival in the year;" and he mentioned the saint's
name. " Then there is music, and the church is radiant with
light ; but we are only able to do such things once a year !
St. Canute is from the North, and therefore our cloister
never receives anything ! St. Canute is poor ! "

I felt that the man was right.

I stood alone before the altar of my childhood's saint, in
whose church I had wept over my father's coffin, in whose
church 1 was confirmed ; the saint whose church once served
me, in its vastness, for a measure of all mountain heights ;
yes, even of the distance between the earth and stars. St.
Canute, all the honors of the universe are perishable ! No
candle burns by thy tomb in thine earthly kingdom ; and even
in the city of the Pope thou hast, on thy festival, but two
poor tallow candles ! The greatest festival thou hast is, that
thy countryman stands by thy tomb and sketches this sorrow-
ful picture in remembrance of thee, St. Canute.



XVI.

THE COLISEUM.

I HAVE heard several interesting lectures concerning the
gigantic forms in the antediluvian world, but I never under-
stood them better than when I once saw the skeleton of a
mammoth. It filled a considerable space in the large yard
where it was laid ; long grass grew out of the spinal bones ami
round about the side bones ; one might have thought it was
the hull of a vessel, and not the carcass of an animal that had
once lived.

The Coliseum is a mammoth's carcass of another species ;
it is a stone skeleton that proclaims the departed greatness of
Rome better than books can do ; it is a ruin, an incredibly de-
vastated ruin. Whole palaces in Rome are erected from its
torn-down walls, and yet there is, in what we still see, a magni-
tude like that which is found in the Pyramids and rock temples
8



114 A POET ' S BAZAAR.

of India. 1 Every colonnade forms large streets ; the broken-
down staircase, from the floor to the uppermost cornice, is a
whole range of rocks covered with grass and underwood ; it
is a declivity that might hold a small city. Here and there, in
the topmost parts of the ruin, is a house plastered up, with
little crooked windows, and in them are persons living.

The whole ruin forms an open church with many altars



Online LibraryH. C. (Hans Christian) AndersenA poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient → online text (page 10 of 31)