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A STRING OF PEARLS

 

THE railway in Denmark extends as yet only from Copenhagen to Kors rit is a string of pearlssuch as Europe has abundance ofthe most costly beads there are called ParisLondonVienna and NaplesYet many a one does not point to these great cities as his loveliest pearlbut on the contrary to a littleunimportant townthere is the home of homesthere his dear ones liveYesoften it is only a single farma little househidden amongst green hedgesa mere point which disappears as the train flashes past it

How many pearls are there on the string from Copenhagen to Kors rWe will consider sixwhich most people must take notice ofold memories and poetry itself give these pearls a lustreso that they shine in our thoughts

Close by the hill where the castle of Frederick the Sixth liesthe home of Oehlenschl ger's childhoodone of the pearls glitters in the shelter of S ndermarken's woodsit was calledThe Cottage of Philemon and Baucis,”that is to saythe home of a lovable old coupleHere lived Rahbek with his wife Emmahereunder their hospitable rooffor a whole generation several men of genius came together from busy Copenhagenhere was a home of intellect,—and nowSay not:“Alashow changed!”—noit is still a home of intellecta conservatory for pining plantsThe flowerbud which is not strong enough to unfold itself yet containsconcealedall the germs for leaf and seedHere the sun of intellect shines into a carefully guarded home of intellectenlivening and giving lifeThe world round about shines through the eyes into the unfathomable depths of the soulThe idiotshomeencompassed with human loveis a holy placea conservatory for the pining plantswhich shall at some time be transplanted and bloom in the garden of GodHere the weakest in intellect are now assembledwhere at one time the greatest and most powerful minds metexchanged ideasand were lifted upwardand the soul's flame still mounts upwards inThe Cottage of Philemon and Baucis.”

The town of the royal tombs beside Hroar's wellthe old Roskildelies before usThe slender spires of the cathedral towers soar above the lowbuilt townand mirror themselves in IsefiordOne grave only will we search for hereand regard it in the sheen of the pearlit is not that of the great Queen Margaretnowithin the churchyardclose to whose white wall we fly pastis the gravea common stone is laid over itthe master of the organthe reviver of Danish romancelies hereThe old traditions became melodies in our soulwe learned that whereThe clear waves rolled,”“there dwelt a king in Leire!”Roskildethe burial place of kingsIn thy pearl will we look at the simple gravewhere on the stone is carved a lyre and the name of Weyse

Now we come to Sigersted near the town of Ringstedthe riverbed lies lowthe golden corn grows where Hagbarth's boat put in to the banknot far from the maidenbower of SigneWho does not know the story of Hagbarthwho was hanged in the oakand Little Signe's bower which stood in flamesthe legend of strong love

Lovely Sor surrounded by woods!”the quiet cloistertown peeps out between the moss-grown treeswith the glance of youth it looks out from the academy over the lake to the world's highwayand hears the engine's dragon puff whilst it flies through the woodSor thou pearl of poetrywhich preserves the dust of HolbergLike a great white swan beside the deep woodland lake lies thy palace of learningand near to it shineslike the white starwort in the woodsa little house to which our eyes turnfrom it pious psalms sound through the landwords are uttered in iteven the peasant listens to them and learns of vanished times in DenmarkThe green wood and the song of the birds go togetherso also do the names of Sor and Ingemann

On to the town of Slagelse—!What is reflected here in the sheen of the pearlVanished is the cloister of Antvorskovvanished the rich halls of the castleand even its soliary deserted wingstill one old relic remainsrenewed and again reneweda wooden cross on the hill over therewhere in legendary timesStAndrewthe priest of Slagelsewakened upborne hither in one night from Jerusalem

Kors rhere wert thou bornwho gave us

Jest with earnest blended

In songs of Knud the voyager

Thou master of words and witThe decaying old ramparts of the forsaken fortress are now the last visible witness of the home of thy childhoodwhen the sun setstheir shadows point to where thy birthplace stoodfrom these rampartslooking towards the height of Sprog thou sawestwhen thou wast small,“the moon glide down behind the isle,”and sang of it in immortal strainsas thou since hast sung of the mountains of Switzerlandthouwho didst wander about in the la byrinth of the world and found that

Nowhere is the rose so red

And nowhere are the thorns so few

And nowhere is the couch so soft

As those our simple childhood knew

Thou lively singer of witWe weave thee a garland of woodruffand cast it in the lakeand the waves will bear it to Kielerfiordon whose coast thy dust is laidit brings a greeting from the young generationa greeting from the town of thy birthKors rwhere the string of pearls is broken

It is indeed a string of pearls from Copenhagen to Kors r,”said Grandmotherwho had heard what we have just read.“It is a string of pearls for meand it had already come to be that for me more than forty years ago,”said she.“We had no steam-engines thenwe spent days on the waywhere you now only spend hoursIt was in 1815I was twentyone thenit is a delightful ageAnd yet up in the sixties is also a delightful ageso full of blessingsIn my young days it was a greater event than now to get to Copenhagenthe town of all townsas we considered itMy parents wishedafter twenty yearsonce again to pay a visit to itand I was to accompany themWe had talked of the journey for yearsand now it was really to take placeI thought that quite a new life would beginandin a waya new life really began for me

There was such sewing and packingand when it was time to departhow many good friends came to bid us good-byeIt was a big journey we had before usIt was in the forenoon that we drove out of Odense in my parents' carriageacquaintances nodded from the windows all the way up the streetalmost until we were out of StGeorge's GateThe weather was lovelythe birds sangall was delightfulone forgot that it was a longdifficult road to NyborgTowards evening we came thereThe post did not arrive until late in the nightand the boat did not leave before thatbut we went on boardThe great water lay before usas far as we could seeso smooth and stillWe lay down in our clothes and slept

When I wakened and came on deck in the morningnothing could be seen on either sidethere was such a fogI heard the cocks crowingobserved that the sun had risenand heard the bells ringingWhere could we beThe fog liftedand we actually were still lying just out from NyborgDuring the day a slight wind blewbut dead against uswe tacked and tackedand finally we were fortunate enough to get to Kors r a little after eleven in the eveningafter we had spent twenty-two hours in traversing the eighteen miles

It was nice to get on landbut it was darkthe lamps burned badlyand everything was so perfectly strange to mewho had never been in any town except Odense

“‘Look,’said my father,‘here Baggesen was bornand here Birckner livedThen it seemed to me that the old town with the little houses grew at once brighter and largerwe also felt so glad to have firm land under usI could not sleep that night for thinking of all that I had already seen and experienced since I left home the day before last

“‘We had to rise early next morningas we had before us a bad road with very steep hills and many holesuntil we came to Slagelseand beyondon the other side of Slagelseit was not much betterand we wished to arrive early at theCrab’,so that we might walk into Sor by daylight and visit the miller's Emilas we called himyesit was your grandfathermy late husbandthe deanhe was a student at Sor and had just passed his second examination

We came to theCrabin the afternoonit was a fashionable place at that timethe best inn on the whole of the journeyand the most charming districtyesyou must all allow it is stiff thatShe was an active hostessMrsPlambekeverything in the house was like a well-scoured tableOn the wall hung Baggesen's letter to herframed and under glassand well worth seeingto me it was something very notable

Then we went up to Sor and there met EmilYou may suppose that he was glad to see usand we to see himand he was so good and attentiveWith him we saw the church with Absalon's grave and Holberg's coffinwe saw the old monkish inscriptionsand we sailed over the lake toParnassus’;the most beautiful evening I can rememberIt seemed to me that if one could make poetry anywhere in the worldit must be at Sor in this peace and beauty of nature

Then in the moonlight we went along thePhilosopher's Walk’,as they call itthe lovelylonely path by the lake and the streamout towards the highroad leading to theCrab’.Emil stayed to supper with usFather and Mother thought he had grown so sensible and looked so wellHe promised us that he would be in Copenhagen in five daysat his own home and together with usfor WhitsuntideThese hours in Sor and theCrabbelong to my life's loveliest pearls

Next morning we set out very earlyfor we had a long way to go before we reached Roskildeand we must get there betimesso that the cathedral might be seenandin the evening father could have time to visit an old friendThis was duly carried outand then we spent the night in Roskildeand next daybut only by dinner-timefor it was the worst and most cutup road that we had yet to travelwe arrived in CopenhagenWe had spent about three days from Kors r to Copenhagennow the same distance is done in three hoursThe beads have not become more preciousthey could not be thatbut the string is new and marvellousI stayed with my parents in Copenhagen for three weeksEmil was with us the whole timeand when we travelled back to Fyenhe accompanied us all the way from Copenhagen to Kors rthere we became engaged before we partedSo now you can understand that I also call from Copenhagen to Kors r a string of pearls

Afterwardswhen Emil was called to Assenswe were marriedWe often talked of the journey to Copenhagenand about doing it once againbut then first came your motherand after that she got brothers and sistersand there was much to look after and to take care ofand when father was promoted and became deanof course everything was a pleasure and a joybut to Copenhagen we never gotI never was there againhowever often we thought and talked about itand now I am too oldI have not the strength to travel on the railwaybut I am glad of the railwaysIt is a blessing that we have themWith them you come all the quicker to me

Now Odense is not much farther from Copenhagen than it was from Nybory in my young daysYou can now fly to Italy as quickly as we travelled to CopenhagenYesthat is something!—all the same I shall sit stilland let others travellet them come to meBut you ought not to laugh eitherbecause I sit so stillI have a great journey before me quite different from yoursone that is much quicker than by the railwaysWhen our Father wills itI shall go to join your grandfatherand when you have completed your workand enjoyed yourselves here in this dear worldI know that you will come up to usand if we talk there about our earthly daysbelieve mechildrenI shall also say there as now,‘from Copenhagen to Kors r is indeed a string of pearls!’

 


 

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