H. C. (Hans Christian) Andersen.

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

. (page 4 of 31)
Online LibraryH. C. (Hans Christian) AndersenA poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient → online text (page 4 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


of the river was a crowd of merry young men ; they had a
lighted torch before them, and the red flame trembled on the
surface of the water. As they went on, they sang some lively
3



34 * POET'S BAZAAR.

German songs, whilst the stars glistened between the bare
branches of the trees ; there was also song and torch-light
in my heart The carrier-dove will fly with my song to the
North, to my home of homes, when I fly over to the Alps.

At home thou sittest, sad with joyful face,

Dressed in thy wedding gown,
And a stranger I, in a foreign place,

Am seeing the sights of the town.
At the altar ye stand he takes thy hand,
Here's a song for you from the company gay ;

There's the clinking of glasses

And the singing of lasses ;
But I for you I'll pray.

When in the home I've left behind

Again shall I see thee ?
A sister to me, gentle and kind

Let God's will be !

To-morrow I go o'er the Alpine snow,
I'll think of you, where the roses stay,

Of you, with your words of worth,

Of you, with your dreams in the North,
And then for you I'll pray.



XL

TYROL.

ALL the mountains were covered with snow; the dark
pines were as if powdered over ; to the left a dark va-
cant stripe indicated the deep bed of the river Inn. From
thence came clouds of exhalations ; they rolled forward like
mists, and, driven by the wind, they sometimes concealed, and
sometimes disclosed the sides of the snow-covered mountains
and firs.

The soldiers on the frontiers, in their large gray cloaks,
clumsy woolen gloves, and muskets over their shoulders, met
us in the fresh cold morning.

We had left Seerfeldt, and were now on the highest point of
the mountain ; we saw the whole valley of the Inn, far, far below
us. The gardens and fields looked like the beds in a kitchen



TYROL. 35

garden : the river Inn itself appeared to be a small kennel.
Close to us, ruins round about, clouds and mountains, with
sunshine and long intense shadows ; no, such things cannot
be minutely drawn, and it is just that circumstance which gives
them their greatest charm.

Beyond the confines of reality this greatness can only reveal
itself in remembrance, to the Tyrolese himself, when he, far
away from his home in flat foreign lands, sings his simple me-
lodious songs : yet there is one thing he misses, one thing that
remembrance cannot restore, it is that deep silence, that
death-like stillness, which is increased by the monotonous
creaking of the wheels in the snow, and by the screams of the
birds of prey.

Several years ago, when on my travels from Italy, I passed
the same way and stayed some days at Innspruck. I made
several tours in the mountains with a young Scotchman. He
found much resemblance between nature here and at his home
near Edinburgh. The children playing before the cottages,
the springs that flow forth everywhere, the sound of bells
around the necks of the cattle, all reminded him of home ;
he became quite melancholy. And when I, in order to make
the illusion stronger, began to sing a well known Scotch mel-
ody, he burst into tears and became ill : we were obliged to
sit down, and strange enough, on looking round I saw on a
solitary spot between the bare cliffs a wooden monument on
which some Hebrew letters were painted. I asked a herds-
man who passed us what was the meaning of it ; and he told
us that a Jew was buried there, that they had no church-yard
for that sort of people, and therefore they had laid him there
in the mountains ; but one of his creed, who travelled with
him, had placed this monument there. This account set my
fancy in as great emotion as the Scotchman's feelings had
been on beholding the scenery, and yet I quite forgot this in-
cident, which, like a fragrant flower, full of poesy, shot forth in
a moment ! I had remembered a hundred other insignificant
things, but not this ; and now on seeing Innspruck suddenly
before me, on passing over that little mountain road I went
up, and where the many springs still splashed, as on that even-
Ing, my thoughts were again call A to life ; it was as if the



36 A POET'S BAZAAR.

waters asked, " Do you remember it ? " It appeared to me as
if but a few hours had passed since I was here, and I became
thoughtful, and with good reason. How many reminiscences
do there not slumber in our minds, how much that we would
gladly have forgotten ; if now, at once, all these remembrances
awake ! I thought of the words of Scripture, " We shall give
account for every idle word we have spoken ! " We shall re-
remember them I I believe that the mind forgets nothing ;
everything can be again awakened, as fresh and living as in
the moment it happened. Our thoughts, words, and actions
are bulbs and roots we plant in the earth, and much of them
we remember full well ; but when we come to the end, we
turn round, and then see the whole in its bloom, and it is par-
adise or hell that we recognize and own.

Shall I draw Innspruck ? Then I must first show you a roar-
ing stream, with many timber rafts steered by two or three
men ; I must describe strong wooden bridges, and crooked
streets with shops in the heavy-built arcades ; but one of the
streets must be broad and showy, the sun must shine on the
altars there, and on the gilded moon which bears the Ma-
donna. Life and bustle must be shown, Tyrolese women
with clumsy caps, slender Austrian officers, and travellers,
with book in hand, must cross each other, and then we have
the picture of the town ; but the frame is of a greater style,
and gives relief to the picture ; the frame is composed of
the high mountains : they seem to be threatening thunder-
clouds that will pass over us.

I soon found the same walk I had visited with the Scotch-
man ; the river Inn rushed on unchanged, the timber rafts
glided under the strong bridges down the stream just as
before. I went up the road where all the springs gush forth,
where all the houses boast of a large image of the Madonna,
the one copied exactly from the other, the clothes of the same
color, the same position for the mother as for the child ;
over the wall and quite over the windows, where they only
left a little space open, hung, like a large carpet, the yellow
maize to ripen in the sun ; merry children played in the
streets : everything was as before. I followed the path, and
tood amongst the silent rocks, where I had seen the mon



TYROL. 37

nment with the Hebraic epitaph, and I saw a part of it still,
but only a part ; a piece of the plank lay in the grass with
half worn-out Hebrew letters ; high grass shot up over the
pile which had borne it. I sang my Scotch song again, and
looked at the scenery around ; that and the song were un-
changed. I thought of my Scotch friend who is now perhaps
the father of a family, and who was possibly at that mo-
ment seated in his soft arm-chair, asleep after a good meal,
perhaps dreaming of one or another thing he had seen ;
perhaps dreaming of this place, and in his dream seeing the
town, the river, and the mountains just as clearly as I saw
it, for the mind can retrace even the smallest details ; dream-
ing that I sang the Scotch song for him on this place. He
awakes, looks up, and says, " I had quite forgotten that ;
how one can dream ! " and so the dream was perfect reality,
for I stood again by the grave, and sang the Scotch melody.

The bright brass balls on the high church towers in the
town shone in the evening sunlight. I returned thither : the
palace church stood open, as is the custom in Catholic coun-
tries ; the light fell with a red tint through the large window-
panes. From the entrance and up to the choir, stand co-
lossal figures in bronze of the German emperors and em-
presses, all undoubtedly cast at the same time and by the
same master ; but although they scarcely belong to works
of art, yet they give the church a peculiar stamp ; it seems
like an open book of legends, which speaks of the days of
chivalry ; even that white monument in the aisle to the left
harmonizes well, if not as a part of the picture, yet like
a fresh flower laid in the book, as a scented mark. It is
an Alpine plant which tells of the strong mountains, of love
for home here, of fidelity toward its land's Emperor, it
is the monument of Andreas Hofer. With the flag in his
hand and his eyes toward heaven, the brave Tyrolese seems
to advance to combat for his mountains, his hearth, and the
Emperor Francis. From Innspruck the way passes over
Brenner to Italy.

It was toward evening on the fourth of December, 1840, that
I drove up the mountain in the diligence, well wrapped up
in cloaks, with Iceland stockings up over the knees, for they



38 A POET'S BAZAAR.

had warned me that it was cold up there, and perhaps the
snow lay so high that we should have to cut our way through.
I knew it was the worst season of the year, but over it we
must go. The road winds constantly in a zigzag upward,
and we went very slowly. The view behind is immense, and
becomes more impressive every step we go forward. The air
was quite of a rose red ; the mountains with the snow looked
like a shining silver cloud, and as the red light disappeared
in the air and it became more and more of a pure blue,
night lay in the valley ; the lights twinkled in the town, which
appeared to us like a starry firmament beneath us. The
evening was so still we heard the snow creak under the wheels.
The moon, which was only in the first quarter, shone clear
enough to illumine all the surrounding objects in the white
snow without depriving us of the sight of the many stars ;
sometimes we saw one of them, so large and glittering,
close by the mountain summit, that it appeared as if it were
a fire.

The wheel-ruts passed close to the giddy precipice where
there are no railings where there is nothing, except here
and there a mighty pine which holds itself fast by the roots to
the declivity : it appeared a fathomless abyss in the moonlight
What stillness ! only the sound of a rivulet was to be heard !
We met not a single wanderer ; not a bird flew past us ; and it
soon became so cold that the windows of the diligence were
covered with icy flowers, and we saw but the rays of the moon
refracted from the edge of the flowers. We stopped at Stein-
ach, where we flocked round a stove with a brass ball on the
top, and refreshed ourselves with a frugal Friday's meal, whilst
the coachman filled the diligence with hay to keep our feet
warm. There was not much snow lying there, but it was bit-
ter cold. Just at twelve o'clock we passed Brenner, the high-
est point, and though the cold was the same, yet we felt it less,
for we sat with our feet in the warm hay and with our thoughts
in Italy, toward which we were now advancing. The frozen
window-panes began to melt, the sun burst forth, the green firs
became more and more numerous, the snow was less. " We
approach Italy, " said we ; and yet the postilion was so fro-
zen that his cheeks and nose were of the same color as the
mornincf HouHs.



TYROL.



39



The road runs continually along the side of the roaring
river ; the cliffs around are not high, and have a strange moul-
dering appearance : they look like slates with half obliterated
Runic inscriptions and hieroglyphics ; they often form large
walls which seem to support the remains of old monuments,
decayed and beaten by rain and storm. During several hours'
driving they had always the same formation ; it really ap-
peared as if one were in a large cemetery for the whole race of
Adam : the still-born child, the most wretched beggar, each
had his monument ; all generations, all ages had theirs ; the
grave-stones there stood strangely cast amongst each other :
the green bush shooting forth from the rocky wall formed a
striking resemblance to the feathery tuft in a knight's helmet,
as the weather-beaten cliff resembled him ; here stood a knight
in armor amongst deformed dwarfs, who all wore ruffs : they
could not be better represented than here. In centuries to
come these images will also decay; but new ones will be
formed again, another church-yard's monuments for another
thousand years' dead, and the river will rush on below,
and hum the same death-hymn.

Toward noon we were in Botzen ; some of the trees had
leaves ; the red vine leaf hung yet on the stem ; beautiful
white oxen dfew the peasants' wagons ; the church-yard had
painted arcades ; in the inn there was as much Italian spoken
as German, and on the table lay a play-bill on which we read
in large letters : " Lucia di Lammermoor, tragedia lirica : *
we were near Italy, although yet on German ground.



ITALY.

I.

ENTRANCE INTO ITALY.
TRAVELLING SKETCHES.



PASSING over the Alps we come into a land where th
winter is like a fine autumn day in the North ; once
at least it was so to me. Six years had elapsed since I had
left Italy ; I was now here again, and in the first hostelry on
Italian ground I had determined to empty the cup of wel-
come ; but the diligence drove past the first, the second, and
the third, for the conductor slept, and we certainly acted wisely
in following his example. I peeped at the blue sky, and let
down the carriage window to drink health in the fresh air.
But our signors screamed aloud at this intrusion of the cold
air, and so I only got a sniff of it.

It was not yet daylight when we reached Verona. The
Hotel della Posta is a cold, uncomfortable place. I was
shown into a paved room, where there were three immeasur-
ably large bedsteads ; a few dried sticks furnished a flame
in the chimney ; but the fire was a sort of fascination, it did
not afford the least warmth ; so I went to bed and slept
slept until the sun shone through the windows. I arose and
drank of its beams, and in reality this was the most precious
draught that Italy could give ! But I wished to have more
sun ; I went out, therefore, and as I got more, I wished to
have it still warmer. It is the same with sun-drinkers as
with other drinkers, they will always have more and always
stronger.

The sun shone on the magnificent marble tombs of the
Scaligii, on the sarcophagus of Romeo and Juliet, on the



ENTRANCE INTO ITALY. 41

great Amphitheatre. I saw them all together; but the sun
of Italy did not yet shine in my heart with that lustre which
all the pictures of memory do.

We ascended the citadel to enjoy the splendid view over
the old city and the murmuring river, and it was here that
Italy first revealed itself. Yes, you will laugh at this reve-
lation, but it is truth : the whole space of ground where this
revelation took place was only some few yards ; it was in a
long green salad bed, only green salad, but it was in the
open air in a strong sunlight, and the warm beams of the sun
were reflected from an old wall quite overgrown with ivy. It
was green here, it was warm here, and yet it was the seventh
of December.

That poor green salad, in the open air, in sunshine ar.d
shade, was like the drapery of that throne from which the maj-
esty of Italy greeted me and cried : " Welcome ! "

II.

They spoke of nought but war, the expected war which
France was soon to carry on against Germany. On the road
there was bustle and movement, but this also was a sign of
war ; one baggage wagon followed the other with ammunition,
accompanied by Austrian cavalry, all, like ourselves, going
towards Mantua, that famous large fortress.

" I shall return in eight months," said a German who sat
in the same carriage with me ; "just the same way back ! It
appears very consoling. How is one to slip through the
enemy's ranks ? "

" I live here on the plain, in the little town of Villafranca,"
sighed a lady ; " there we are but a few hours' ride from
Mantua. We may expect dreadful times."

I became serious ; yet in the great events of life, where I
cannot do anything myself, I have the same firm belief as the
Turks in a directing Providence ; I know that what will hap-
pen, happens ! Here my thoughts turned to my friends at
home ; the best hopes arose in my mind.

It was evening, the air was clear and blue, the moon shone ,
>t was so still, just as on a fine autumn evening in Denmark.



42 A POETS BAZAAR.

Mantua lay before us. They said it was Mantua, and I was
quite in Denmark, not only in thoughts but in the surround-
ing scenery. I saw a large clear lake, which in the moon-
light seemed inclosed by woods that assumed a peculiar blue-
ness ; the large plain of Lombardy, the lake and the woods,
which in fact existed not, but appeared to exist, suddenly re-
called me to my home : tears came to my eyes, call it not
home-sickness, for I was at home.

They say that sorrow gets up behind a man and rides with
him : I believe it ; but memory does the same, and sits faster.
Memory rode its hobby on my knee, and laid its head against
my heart

" Do you remember," it sang, " the large calm lakes inclosed
by fragrant beech woods ? Do you remember the little path
between the wild roses and the high brackens ? The rays of the
evening sun played between the branches of the trees, and
made the leaves transparent. Near the lake lies an old castle
with a pointed roof, and the stork has its nest up there ; it is
beautiful in Denmark ! "

" Do you remember the brown, sweet smelling clover-field,
with its old tumulus grown over with brambles and black-
thorn ? The stones in the burial-chamber shine like copper
when the sun throws his red gleams within. Do you remember
the green meadow where the hay stands in stacks, and spreads
a sweet perfume in the calm air ? The full moon shines, the
husbandmen and girls go singing home, with glittering scythes.
Do you remember the sea, the swelling sea, the calm sea?
Yes, it is beautiful in Denmark ! "

And we rolled into Mantua, rolled in over an immense
draw-bridge ! The wheels of the water-mills roared and
foamed outside and so we were in the streets of Mantua.



III.

t

It was the feast of the Madonna ; the magnificent church
shone with light, the figures in the cupola appeared living
they soared ! It was as if one had cast a look into heaven it-
self: the smell of incense filled the aisles of the church ; song
and music sounded so exquisitely beautiful ; they breathed forth



ENTRANCE INTO ITALY. 43

a gladness which we inhabitants of the North cannot Imagine
in a church ; and yet, when we hear it there in the South, and
see the devout crowd kneeling, we feel ourselves elevated by
joy!

From the church, the crowd streamed forth into the large
open square, and just before it stood a little puppet show.
The* puppets knocked their heads against each other, and
fought with their large arms. The dialogue was applauded.
It was now all life and mirth.

People wandered up and down under the high piazzas ;
song and music sounded from the open cafes ; I took a seat
in one, where a musical pair displayed their talents.

The husband was ugly and deformed, quite a dwarf; the
wife, on the contrary, young and pretty; she played the harp
and he the violin. His voice was sonorous. It was the most
brilliant bass, so melodious and flexible : he sang with taste
and feeling. Every one around became attentive. No one
read his paper longer, no one gossiped with his neighbor ; it
was a song worth hearing, and the Italians have an ear for song.

I observed that the young wife once looked at him with an
expression of mildness, and with so friendly a smile that their
every-day life appeared as an adventure, his ugliness a spell,
which she well knew; his nobler "self" revealed itself in
song, and whilst he sang the ugly mask would once and forever
fall, and she would see him young and handsome as she was
herself.

All the guests gave him a small tribute ; mine rattled in his
hat as they called me to the post-house.

The building here was formerly a cloister ; one must go
through arcades, over the court-yard of an old cloister, into
the church, a large one, built in the Italian style, and which
now serves as a coach-house.

The air without, lighted by the moon, threw so much light
upon the cupola, that all the outlines appeared distinct. The
lower part of the church itself was almost in the dark. A
large stable lantern hung where the brass lustre had before
hung; the diligence and one of the nearest carriages was
lighted by it ; round about stood trunks, travellers' baggage,
and packages. The whole made a disagreeable impression on



44 A POET'S BAZAAR.

me, for there was too much here that reminded me of the
house of God.

I know not with what feelings the Catholic regards such a
change as that of a church into a stable. I have always imag-
ined that the Catholic was more zealous for his creed than the
less ceremonious Protestant. I felt glad to leave the place.

The church door opened, and where the choristers had
swung their censers with incense before the kneeling crowd,
our horses' hoofs pattered, the postilion blew his horn, and we
drove away. Four mounted gendarmes accompanied us, for
the way was not safe.

Everything was soon still and lonely ; we saw no more lights
shining from any house by the way.

We approached the river Po, and all around showed traces
of the last inundation. Field and road were covered with a
thick mud ; we could only drive slowly. By the bank of the
. river lay a solitary ferry-boat, so large that the carriage and
horses could drive on to it ; a small wooden shed was also
erected on the vessel ; within it burned a large fire, round
which we all flocked, as the night was cold, whilst the stream
itself carried the ferry-boat over. Everything was so still that
we heard only the whistling sound of the ropes round the pul-
ley by which our vessel was held, as the stream drove it on.
The ferry was crossed : fresh gendarmes, on horseback and
wrapped up in large cloaks, awaited us.

IV.

MOONLIGHT AND SUNLIGHT.

It was after midnight : I sat in the rolling carriage, the
soldiers kept close to it ; it was the most beautiful moonlight !
A large city with old walls lay straight before us ; it was
again pitchy night, we rode in through the gate, and the moon
again shone. We were in Modena ! That sight is before me
now, full of moonshine, like a strange dream. Old buildings
with arcades : a magnificent palace with an extensive open
place revealed itself; but all was void and still, not a light
shone on us from a single window, not one living being moved
in the large old city ; it was quite like witchcraft. We stopped



ENTRANCE INTO ITALY.



45



in a little square, in the centre of which stood a brick column,
the upper part of which formed a sort of lantern with a glass
window ; a lamp burned within. This sort of altar is called
" the eternal light ; " the lamp is kept burning night and day.

The flame appeared in the clear moonlight like a red spot,
a painted flame ; a woman wrapped in a ragged mantle sat
there and slept. She leaned her head against the cold wall
of the pillar ; a sleeping child lay on her knee with its head
on her lap. I stood long and regarded this group ; the little
one's hand was half open on its mother's knee ! I laid a
small coin quite gently in the child's hand ; it opened its eyes,
looked at me, and closed them again directly. What was it
dreaming of? I knew that when it awoke, the moonlight
would cause the money to appear like silver in its hand.

I saw Bologna by sunlight ; it lies between luxuriant vine
fields, close under the Apennines, which form a green hedge
wherein every tendril is a vineyard, every flower a villa or a
church.

The sun plays a great part in this country ; the inhabitants
of the city do not like it, therefore everything is calculated to
afford shade, every house forms a cool piazza ; but the sun
rules in the vine fields and ripens the juicy grape ; it even
forms an alliance with the stones. It is here in the neighbor-
hood, in Mount Paderno, that the so-called Bononian stone
(Spongia di Luce) is found, which has the particular quality
tf absorbing the sun's rays, and of giving a light in the dark.

I thought of this when I saw the great city in the sunlight,
and my eye fell on the leaning tower. This is also a mass of
stone which gives light, thought I, but it has got its light from
Dante's " Divina Commedia."

I thought of this when I visited the rich cemetery and
looked at the many marble monuments ; they are also Bono-
nian stones which receive their light from the dead they are
placed over ; but I found none which as yet had absorbed
any light, though on one was inscribed, that here lay a cele-
brated dramatist, and on another, that here reposed a lady
who could speak Greek and Latin.

I thougnt of the Bononian stone as I stood before one of



Online LibraryH. C. (Hans Christian) AndersenA poet's bazaar : a picturesque tour in Germany, Italy, Greece, and the Orient → online text (page 4 of 31)