H. C. (Hans Christian) Andersen.

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

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were, they could not fail of pleasing. I was, on account of
this reading of my poems, presented in the handsomest man-
ner to those to whom I was an entire stranger in that circle.

Of his oriental poems there was one, composed in June,
1826, as he rode over Mount Ida, which his dramatic style 01
reading particularly recommended to my liking. On my de-
parture from Athens he gave me a copy of it, and I will insert
it here :

" Den Sabel zur seite, Geschoss in der Hand
DurchstreiP ich mil frohlichen Muthe das Land.
Wohl hausst auf dem waldigen Ida die Schaar
WUdharzige Rauber voll Trotz in Gefahr,
Mit blinkenden Waffen und wieherndem Ross
Mit Herden und Weibern und dienendem Tross.

" Sie senden die Blicke weit iiber die Flur,
Erspah'n in der Feme des Wanderers Spur,
Behorchen der edlen Kamehle Gelaut,
Sind immer zu Handen so morgen als heut
Sie lauschen am Felsen, sie lauschen im Wald,
Und treiben das alteste Handwerk, Gewalt.

" Nur muthig und vorwarts ! S'ist jedvedem Land
So mancherlei eigen dem Weiber und Sand,
Dem anderen hohe Cypressen und Wein,
Es muss auch dem Ida sein Eigenes seyn,
Homeros und Rauber und pfadloser Wald,
Und erzreicher Felsen erhabne Gestalt ! "

During the reading, it appeared to me that I myself hur-
ried on through the steep mountains. I saw him armed with
sabre and pistols, and with the same fiery look with which he
recited his description. The bandit troop peeped forth from
the mountain-pass ; the camels' bells rang, and all was again
silent in that great, wild, pathless solitude.

I owe to Prokesch, not only many pleasant and entertain-


ing hours during my stay in Athens, but also a friendly re-
ception at Constantinople, and hospitality there, of which 1
shall afterward speak. He and his lady seemed to be fond of
my " Eventyr " (" Tales and Adventures for Youth ") in par-
ticular, and begged me to write more soon. These pages,
should they ever meet theif eyes, must tell that, in my own
life's adventures, the hours that I passed with them form one
of the chapters I find most interesting only that it seems
far too short



DURING the fine weather we made an excursion to the mar-
ble quarries in Pentelicon. From the desert heath, at the
foot of Lycabettus, and out to the mountains, the road is full
of incident Even over this short extent, a painter might col-
lect a whole book of interesting sketches.

One of the first must be the picture of a khan or inn, as
we saw it, in the little village of Kalandri. The fire-place
was in a corner of the floor ; the walls were decorated with
shelves, on which stood wine and eatables, fruit and articles
of trade ; but from all the shelves long stripes of gold and sil-
ver paper fluttered in the breeze like fringes. There were two
musical fellows ; the one beat a drum, and the other played the
flute ; six others danced in a row, a gray-haired man was
the leader, and he made the most singular movements. They
danced three times round the room, then out of the house, and
down the road, where a group of Greek women, in their pic-
turesque dresses, looked on. A couple of the youngest girls
had violet-colored velvet jackets ; and their beautiful dark
plaited hair was laid like a border round the little red fez.
The sun shone on the women, so that they had to hold their
hands before their eyes to see the dancers. It was a charm-
ing picture.

Wild olive, pear, and almond-trees formed beautiful groups
to sketch. As a foreground to one of these pictures, should
be placed our expedition, the pedestrians as well as the eques


trians, and amongst the last were two tortoises. Every mo-
ment we saw one of these animals lying still, like a block of
stone, or creeping on at snail's pace in the middle of the road.
I would not have them driven over ; nay, I thought that we
ought to help them forward a little in the world, and so I set
them up with the coachman. They drove with us to the Pen-
telicon, and perhaps they now sun themselves on the plains
of Marathon. There was a young tortoise, no larger than a
watch. I laid many plans for it, and took it likewise with
me ; but, as it afterward occurred to me that it would suffer
hunger and thirst the further I travelled, I took it into a wood
of oleander-trees, where the rays of the sun played freely ;
and it was right glad of its liberty !

The cloister of Pentelis stands here on the side of the
mountain, as in a waste and deserted garden. At first sight, it
has the appearance of a large, neglected dairy farm : the walls
are riven, and grown over with wild plants, like the walls of
Daphne. The only thing that intimated life and motion was
a flock of poultry, hopping about on the heaps of rubbish in
the foremost yard. Outside the little church, the door of
which stood open, so that the sun shone in on the burning
lamps, stood a large laurel-tree. It was in full bloom, so rich,
so odorous; and I was so happy! One 'of the priests saw
my enthusiasm, and immediately broke off a branch which he
presented to me. I have divided it at home, in Denmark, be-
tween Thorwaldsen's bust and Oehlenschlager's portrait. 1

Outside the cloister, down the mountain, there lay, between
the green, wood-covered hills, a charming valley, with a fresh-
running rivulet, tall poplars, and blooming fruit-trees. The
mountains of Morea rose in the horizon ; the one row far
above the other in rich tones of color. Our horses grazed in
the green meadow. A large fire was kindled, and a whole
lamb placed on the spit, which was turned by a pretty Greek
boy. Everything was prepared for our meal in the green fields.

1 When I visited the place, near Athens, they call Socrates' prison, a
chamber cut in the side of the rock, at Areopagus, my thoughts were
with the great poet of the North, the only one who, from the Danish stage,
has reminded the public of Socrates. Close by the entrance to the cavern
stood a beautiful red flower. I plucked it, and sent it in a letter with a
greeting to Oehlenschiager in Denmark.


But we must first see the marble quarries of the Pentelicon.
The road lay through thickets and bushes, where a few little
boys tended the cattle and sheep belonging to the cloister.
Large tortoises crawled round about ; one was lying sprawling
on its back in the sun, and I was its unknown benefactor.

It was a troublesome excursion, continually upward, over
large blocks of stone, amongst thorns and brambles ; but still we
must see the marble quarries ; we must ascend the Pentelicon.

A herdsman was there in his Greek woolen dress ; he
leaned on his long staff, and looked down into the gray val-
ley, where a large tumulus stood in wildest solitude : the sea
and the mountains of Eubcea bounded the horizon. A bluish
smoke curled up from a cabin below, which could scarcely be
perceived. The tumulus, which appeared like a small island
amongst reeds, has a fame as great as any in the world :
and whose is this grave ? We name the plain, and the tumulus
is known. It is the plain of Marathon.



WE have lately accomplished a little journey, and already
begin to desire a greater one. Where to ? To Sparta, to My-
cenae, to Delphi 1 There are hundreds of places that the heart
throbs with a desire to visit. It must be on horseback up
mountain paths ; away over copse and bush ; the single travel-
ler goes forth like a whole caravan. He rides before with his
agojal, a pack-horse bears his portmanteau, tent, and provision,
few gensdarmes follow after for his protection. No inn with
well-made bed awaits him after the fatiguing day's journey ;
the tent is often his roof in the wild and extended solitude of
nature ; the agojal cooks a pilaf ' for his evening meal. Thou-
sands of gnats buzz about the little tent ; it is a miserable
night, and to-morrow the road lies over rapid and swollen rivers.
3it fast on thy horse, and take care thou art not carried away.
1 A pilaf is composed of poultry, rice, and curry.



What reward is there for these toils? The greatest! the
richest ! Nature reveals herself here in all her greatness ;
every spot is historical ; the eye and the mind alike are fully
gratified. The poet can sing of it ; the painter portray it in
richest beauty ; but the odor of reality, which eternally forces
its way, and rests in the thoughts of the spectator, they have
not the power to represent.

I have endeavored to depist in many small sketches one
little extent of country Athens and its environs ; and yet
how colorless is the picture ! How poorly does it indicate
Greece, that sorrowing genius of beauty, whose greatness and
affliction the stranger never forgets !

The solitary herdsman on the rock, by a simple story of one
of the events of his life, might perhaps, open thy eyes to a
view of the land of the East, by a few traits, better than I
with my pictures.

Then let him speak, says my Muse. Well, the herdsman on
the mountain there shall tell us about a custom, a fine and
peculiar custom : it is ' ; Friendship's Covenant."

" Our house was stuck together with clay, but the door-
posts were fluted marble columns, found where the house was
built. The roof descended almost to the ground ; it was darl.,
brown, and ugly ; but when it was built the blooming oleander,
and the fresh laurel branches were brought from behind the
mountain. It was narrow and confined about our house ; the
rocks stood steep upward, and presented a dark, bare color.
Clouds often hung on the top of them, like living forms clad
in white. I never heard a song-bird here ; the men never
danced here to the tones of the bagpipe ; but the place was
sacred from the times of old ; the name itself reminds us
thereof it is called Delphi !

" The dark, sombre mountains lay covered with snow ; the
topmost, which shone longest in the red evening sun, was
Parnassus. The brook near our house streamed down from
thence, and was also once holy. Now the ass muddies it with
his feet ; yet the stream runs strong, and again becomes clear.
How well I remember every spot and its deep, holy solitude !
The fire was kindled in the middle of the cabin, and, when
the hot ashes lay high and glowing, the bread was baked in


them. When the snow lay around our hut, so that it was al
most hidden, my mother then seemed happiest ; she then held
my hand between her hands, kissed my brow, and sang the
songs she at other times never sang ; for the Turks, our mas-
ters, lik'ed them not ; and she sang : ' An old stag sat in the
low pine wood, on Olympus's top ; its eyes were heavy with
tears ; yes, it wept red, green, and pale-blue tears, and a roe-
buck came past ! " What ails thee, that thou weepest thus ?
even red, green, and pale- blue tears?" "The Turk has
come into our town ; he has wild dogs for his sport, a mighty
pack ! " " I will chase them over the islands," said the young
roebuck. " I will drive them over the islands into the deep
sea ! " but before the evening came on, the roebuck was
killed ; and before night came, the stag was hunted and dead ! '

" And when my mother sang thus, her eyes became wet,
and there sat a tear in the long eyelashes ; but she hid it, and
turned our black bread in the ashes. Then I clinched my
hand, and said, ' We will slay the Turk ! ' but she repeated
the song : ' " I will chase them over the islands into the deep
sea ! " but before evening came on, the roebuck was killed, and
before night came, the stag was hunted and dead ! '

We had been alone in our solitary cabin for several days and
nights, when my father came home. I knew he brought me
mussel-shells from the Bay of Lepanto, or some such thing as
a sharp and shining knife. He brought us a child that time ;
i little naked girl, whom he carried under his sheepskin cloak.
She was wrapped in a skin, and all that she had when she was
loosened from it in my mother's lap, were three silver coins fas-
tened in her black hair. And my father told us about the Turks
who had killed the child's parents. He told us so much that
I dreamt about it the whole night. My father himself was
wounded, and my mother bandaged his arm, for the wound was
deep. The thick sheepskin cloak was frozen stiff with blood.

" The little girl was to be my sister. She was so beautiful,
so transparently clear ! My mother's eyes were not milder
than hers ! Anastasia, as she was called, should be my sister ,
for her father was married to my father ; married after an old
custom which we still retain. They had, in their youth, con
tracted brotherhood together, and chosen the handsomest and


most virtuous girl in the neighborhood to join their hands in
the covenant of friendship. I heard often about this rare and
beautiful custom.

" The little girl was now my sister ; she sat on my lap. I
brought her flowers, and feathers from the birds of the rock ; we
drank together the waters of Parnassus : we slept, face to face,
under the cabin's laurel-covered roof, whilst my mother still
sang, for many a winter, of the red, the green, and the pale-blue
tears. But I could not yet understand that it was my own peo-
ple, whose thousand fold sorrows were reflected in these tears.

" One day there came three Franks, dressed differently
from us ; they had their beds and tents on horses ; and more
than twenty Turks, all with sabres and muskets, accompanied
them, for they were the Pasha's friends, and had letters from
him. They only came to see our mountains ; to ascend Par-
nassus, in snow and clouds, and survey the dark, steep, and
singular rocks around our hut.

" There was not room for them in the cabin, nor did they
like the smoke which passed under the ceiling, and out of the
low doorway. They erected their tents on the narrow place
outside our hut. They roasted lambs and birds, and drank
sweet, strong wine, but the Turks durst not drink of it.

" When they departed, I followed them part of the way,
and my little sister Anastasia hung on my back, sewed up in
a goat skin. One of the Franks placed me against a rock,
and drew me and her, quite like nature. As we appeared on
the paper, we looked like one single being. I had never
thought of it, but Anastasia and I were as one. She always
lay on my lap or hung on my back ; and if I dreamed, she was
in my dreams.

" Two nights afterward other people came to our hut.
They were armed with knives and guns. They were Albani-
ans ; brave men, as my mother said. They remained there
but a short time. My sister Anastasia sat on the lap of one.
When he was gone she had two, and not three silver coins
in her hair. They rolled tobacco up in strips of paper and
smoked it, and the eldest spoke of the road they should take,
and was uncertain about it : ' If I spit upward,' said he, ' it
will fall in my face ; if I spit downward, it will fall on my


beard ! But a way must be chosen ! ' They went, and my
"ather accompanied them. Shortly after we heard shots fired
n rapid succession : then there came a party of soldiers to
ur hut ; they took my mother, me, and Anastasia. They
said the robbers had taken refuge with us ; my father had
accompanied them, and therefore we must away. I saw the
dead bodies of the robbers ; I saw my father's corpse, and I
wept till I fell asleep. When I awoke, we were in prison ;
but the chamber was not more wretched than that in our own
hut ; and I got onions and resinous wine, which they poured
out of the tarred bag ; but we were no better off at home.

' How long we were imprisoned I know not ; but many
days and nights passed away. When we were set at liberty
it was our holy Easter festival, and I bore Anastasia on my
back, for my mother was ill ; she could walk but slowly, and
it was long before we reached the Bay of Lepanto.

" We entered a church which glittered with images on the
golden ground; they were angels ! O, so beautiful! But I
thought that our little Anastasia was just as pretty. In the
middle of the floor stood a coffin, filled with roses ; it was the
Lord Christ, said my mother, who lay there like beautiful
flowers ! And the priest proclaimed : ' Christ is risen ! '

" All the people kissed each other. Every one held a
lighted candle in his hand. I, myself, got one, and little Anas-
tasia one. The bagpipes sounded, the men danced hand in
hand from the church, outside of which the women roasted
Easter lambs. We were invited to eat. I sat by the fire, a
a boy, older than myself, threw his arms around my neck,
kissed me, and said: 'Christ is risen!' So it was that
Aphtanides and I met for the first time.

" My mother could make fishing nets ; that was work by
which she gained much at the bay, and we remained for a long
time by the sea, the delightful sea, which tasted like tears,
and in its color reminded us of the weeping stag's ; some-
times it was red, then green, and then blue again.

" Aphtanides knew how to steer a boat ; and I sat with my
little Anastasia in the boat, which floated on the water as a
cloud sails in the air. When the sun went down, the mountains
became more dark-blue, the one range peeped over the other



and in the distance stood Parnassus, with its snowy-covered
top, shining like glowing iron in the evening sun. It appeared
as if the light came from within, for it shone so long in the
blue glittering air after the sun had gone down. The white
sea-birds struck the water's surface with their wings, or else it
was as still as at Delphi amongst the black rocks. I lay on my
back in the boat ; Anastasia sat on my breast, and the stars
above us shone still brighter than the lamps in our church.
They were the same stars and they hung quite in the same
place over me as when I sat outside our cabin at Delphi. I at
last thought that I was still there ; then there was a splashing
in the water, and the boat rocked. I screamed aloud, for Anas-
tasia had fallen into the water ; but Aphtanides was just as
quick as I, and he soon handed her to me ! We took her
clothes off, wrung the water out, and then dressed her again.
Aphtanides did the same for himself; and we remained on
the sea until their clothes were dry again, and no one knew
the fright we had had for my little foster-sister, in whose life
Aphtanides had now a part.

" It was summer. The sun burnt so hot that the leaf-trees
withered. I thought of our cool mountains, and of the fresh
water there ; my mother also longed for them, and one even-
ing we wandered back again. How still and silent all things
were ! We went over the high thyme, which still spread its
scent around, though the sun had dried its leaves. Not a
herdsman did we meet, not a cabin did we pass ; all was still
and solitary ; the shooting-star alone said that there was life
above in heaven. I know not if it was the clear blue air it-
self that shed a light, or was it the star's rays ? we saw the
outlines of all the mountains so distinctly. My mother made
a fire, and roasted the onions she had brought with her ; and
I and my little sister slept in the thyme without fear of the
horrid smidraki, 1 from whose throat the flames pour forth ;
and much less did we fear the wolf and jackal : my mother
sat with us, and that I thought was enough.

" We reached our old home, but the hut was a heap of rub-
bish, and a new one must be built. A few women assisted my

1 Greek superstition creates this monster from the uncut stomach of tba
slaughtered sheep, which is cast into the fields.


mother, and in a few days the walls were built up, and a new
roof of oleander placed over them.

" My mother plaited holsters of bark and skin for bottles.
I looked after the priest's l little herd. Anastasia and the
small tortoises were my playmates.

" One day we had a visit from our dear Aphtanides, who, as
he said, longed so much to see us ; and he stayed two whole
days with us.

" After a month had passed he came again, and told us that
he was going with a ship to Patras and Corfu : he could not go
without bidding us farewell, and he brought a large fish with
him for my mother. He knew how to tell so much, not alone
about the fishermen down by the Bay of Lepanto, but about
kings and heroes who had once reigned in Greece, as the
Turks do now.

" I have seen the rose-tree begin to bud, and in days and
weeks it has become a full-blown flower ; it became so be-
fore I began to think about it How large, beautiful, and
blushing it was. It was thus also with Anastasia. She was a
charming, full-grown girl ; I a strong lad. The wolves' skins
on my mother's and Anastasia's bed I had myself flayed from
the animals that fell under my gun.

Years had passed, when one evening Aphtanides came. He
was slender as a reed, but strong and brown. He kissed us
all, and told us about the great sea, of Malta's fortresses, and
of Egypt's strange burial-places ; it sounded so strangely
like one of the priest's legends. I looked up to him with a
sort of reverence.

" ' How much you know,' said I ; ' how well you can relate

" ' Yet,' said he, ' you once told me the prettiest of all stories ;
you have told me what has never gone out of my thoughts,
the beautiful old custom of the covenant of friendship. It
is a custom that I have a great desire to follow. Brother, let
us two, as thine and Anastasia's father did, go to the church ;
the handsomest and most innocent girl is Anastasia, our sister ;
she shall bind us together. None have nobler customs than
we Greeks.'

1 A peasant who can read is often the priest, and is called " Most Holj
Sir." The common people kiss the ground when they meet him.


a Anastasia grew red as the fresh rose-leaf, and my mother
kissed Aphtanides.

" An hour's walk from our hut, there, where the rocks bear
mould, and a few trees cast their shade, lay the little church ;
a silver lamp hung before the altar.

" I had my best clothes on ; the white fostanelles folded
richly down over the hips ; the red jacket sat tight and narrow ;
there was silver in the tassel on my fez, and in my belt were
knife and pistols. Aphtanides had on his blue dress, such as
the Greek sailors wear. A silver plate with an image of the
Virgin hung on his breast, and his sash was as valuable as
those which only the rich nobles wear. Every one saw that
we two were about to celebrate a festival. We went into the
little solitary church, where the evening sun shone through the
doorway on the burning lamps and the variegated images on
a golden ground. We knelt on the steps of the altar, and
Anastasia placed herself before us. A long white frock hung
loose and light around her beautiful limbs ; her white neck
and bosom were covered with a broad chain of old and new
coins, which formed a whole collar ; her black hair was laid
on the top of her head in one single curl, held by a little cap
of gold and silver coins, found in the old temples. No Greek
girl had finer ornaments. Her face beamed ; her eyes re-
sembled two stars.

" We all three said our prayers in silence, and she asked
us : ' Will you be friends in life and death ? We answered :
* Yes.' ' Will you each, whatever may happen, remember
My brother is a part of me, my secrets are his secrets,
my happiness or fortune is his ! Sacrifice, endurance every-
thing I hold for my own soul as for him ? ' and we repeated
our ' Yes ; ' and she placed our hands in each other, kissed us
on the forehead, and we again prayed silently. The priest
ihen stepped forward from the door of the altar, blessed us all
three, and a song from the other most holy men sounded from
behind the altar wall. The eternal covenant of friendship was
concluded. When we rose, I saw my mother by the church
door weeping deeply and inwardly.

" What mirth there was in our little hut and by the fountains
of Delphi! The evening before Aphtanides was to depart.


he and I sat thoughtfully on the slope of the cliff ; his arm
was around my waist, mine around his neck ; we spoke of the
necessities and distress of Greece, of men who could be de
pended on. Each thought in our minds was clear to us both :
then I seized his hand :

" ' One thing yet thou shalt know ; one that, until this hour,
only God and I know ! All my soul is love ; it is a love
stronger than that for my mother and for thee.'

" ' And whom dost thou love ? ' asked Aphtanides, and he
grew red in the face and neck.

" ' I love Anastasia,' said I. His hand trembled violently
in mine, and he became pale as a corpse. I saw it ; I under-

Online LibraryH. C. (Hans Christian) AndersenA poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient → online text (page 18 of 31)