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Four Danish Poets

( Originally Published 1896 )



THE revival of romantic poetry in Denmark was almost exactly coeval with the movement of Wordsworth and Coleridge amongst ourselves, and in each case the introduction of a somewhat poor and inartistic element from Germany was the immediate cause of the development of a rare, vigorous, and many-sided poetic art. In Denmark, two Scandinavian exiles brought romanticism back with them on their return ; of these one was a philosopher, Henrik Steffens, the other was a poet, Schack-Staffeldt. These persons did for their country not only what Coleridge did for England, but what he proposed to do. In theory and practice, by stirring lectures and by exquisite lyrics, they pointed their countrymen to the value of abstract and mystic thought, and in the same dreamy spirit to the popular legends and ancient mythology of their country. Steffens indeed was met by public disapproval, but in private discussion he lit the ambition of Oehlenschläger and Grundtvig, and a new epoch commenced. To chronicle the bare facts of the fertile and brilliant period that ensued, merely to enumerate works of all the romantic poets from Schack Staffeldt to Paludan Müller, would need more than one volume. The efflorescence of Danish poetry lasted about half a century, from 1800 to 1850, and in this short space of time the valuable part of the literature of Denmark was trebled in bulk. I have thought it might be of some interest, and not unsuited to the limited space at my command, if I gave a rapid sketch of the characteristics of four deceased poets, widely divergent from one another, each of the highest eminence in his own line, and with each of whom it has been my privilege to come into some measure of personal intercourse. These four were the last 1 survivors of a race of intellectual giants, the tradition of whose prestige will long give Denmark an honourable prominence among the nations of Northern Europe.

I.

It was on the last Sunday of July 1872 that I set out to hear Bishop Grundtvig preach in the little workhouse chapel, called the Vartou, opposite the trees and still waters of the western ramparts of Copenhagen. I had much desired for some time past to satisfy the curiosity I felt to see the oldest poet, certainly, then alive in Europe but my friends were of the orthodox party in the Church, and some little difficulty was made. However, the amiability of my host overcame his scruples as a rival theologian, and we set out together. We found seats with difficulty, for the chapel was crowded with communicants, the day being of special importance among the sect. After sitting more than half-an-hour, surrounded by strange fanatic faces, and women who swung themselves to and fro in silent prayer, it seemed to be decided that the Bishop was unable to come, and we began to sing hymns in the loud, quick, joyous manner invented by the poet, and very different from the slow singing in the state churches. Suddenly, and when we had given up all hope, there entered from the vestry and walked rapidly to the altar a personage who seemed to me the oldest man I had ever seen. He prayed in a few words that sounded as if they came from underground, and then he turned and exhorted the communicants in the same slow, dull voice. He stood beside me for a moment as he laid his hands on a girl's head, and I saw his face to perfection. For a man of ninety he could not be called infirm, but' the attention was drawn less to his vitality, great as it was, than to his appearance of excessive age. He looked like a troll from some cave in Norway; he might have been centuries old.

From the vast orb of his bald head, very long silky hair, perfectly white, fell over his shoulders, and mingled with a long and loose white beard. His eyes flamed under very beetling brows, and they were the only part of his face that seemed alive, even when he spoke. His features were still shapely, but colourless and dry, like parchment. I never saw so strange a head. When he rose into the pulpit, and began to preach, and in his dead voice warned us all to beware of false spirits, and to try every spirit, he looked very noble, but the nobility was scarcely Christian. In the body of the church he had reminded me of a troll; in the pulpit he looked more like some forgotten Druid, that had survived from Mona and could not die. It is rare indeed to hear any man preach a sermon at ninety, and perhaps unique for that man to be also a great poet. Had I missed seeing him then, I should never have seen him ; for he took to his bed next day, and within a month the noble old man was dead.

Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig was born in 1783, at the parsonage of Udby, in the south of Zealand. All his relatives were Zealand folk ; both on the father's and mother's side the family had been Danes of the most Danish intensity for long generations. Perhaps this has had something to do with his great love of all that is national and homely; of all the Northern writers, not one has so exclusively been a man of the people. When he was only nine years old he was sent away to school in Jutland, and while he was here the news came of the execution of Louis XVI. The poet was wont to declare that he could remember it; doubtless the great events in France were the subject of much excited talk in the tutor's house at Tyregodlund. When he was fifteen he was sent to the Latin school at Aarhuus, but long before this his mind had begun to take in literary impressions. On the wild moors of Jutland, he had learned to steal out alone with old chronicles and war-songs under his arm, and devour strange romances. At Aarhuus he made friends with a little old shoemaker, and, sitting by his fireside through the long winter nights, heard folk-song after folk-song, and story after story. In 1800 he became a student at the University of Copenhagen, and began to study Icelandic. About r803 he carne under the influence of his cousin, Henrik Steffens, then a very prominent man just returned from Germany full of Fichte and Schelling, and whose lectures on the poetic treatment of themes of popular history were a revelation to the young men of the day. The works of Steffens are almost forgotten nowadays, but in the earliest years of the century he was a power in the North of Europe, more by the almost magnetic attraction of his personal presence than by any great depth or value in his words.

In a pretty country-house, in the island of Langeland, where he was tutor, Grundtvig now began to throw himself heart and soul into literature. He studied Icelandic, that he might make himself master of the ancient sagas; German, that he might revel in Goethe and Tieck; and English, that he might stand face to face with Shakspeare. But what roused the young Titan more than all was the publication of Oehlenschläger's first volume of poems, which came to him in his solitude in Langeland, and fired him with a new ambition. Henceforth he was a poet, but his first two works, though published under the patronage of Rahbek, the Maecenas of Danish letters, fell dead from the press. But he had many strings to his bow. In 1807 he published On Religion and Liturgy, in which he stepped forward as a spiritual reformer, urging the necessity of a broader spirit in religious matters. The daring tone of the book drew people's attention to its author. In 1808 he appeared before the public in yet another guise, as author of The Mythology of the North, a first attempt at a philosophico-poetical interpretation of the Scandinavian myths, and this was followed by a long epic poem of similar drift, The Decline of Heroic life in the North. Literary work was carried by him to such an excess that in 1810 his nervous system gave way, and the young poet had to go home to his father's house to be nursed. Here he wrote A Short Sketch of the World's Chronicle, a fanatical and violent work, which roused a good deal of ill-feeling against him. In 1813 his father died, and he came to live in Copenhagen. There his literary ambitions blossomed out in the most fervid manner. The seven years of his stay in the city are filled with the record of ceaseless labour ; he published in that period a great mass of poetical, theological, and philosophical works, edited and wrote a newspaper, and translated into the best Danish, Snorro Sturleson, Saxo-Grammaticus, and Beowulf. In 1821 he came with his newly-wedded wife to live at Praestö, a little country town in Zealand, of which he had been made pastor; but the provincial life proved unbearable, and in a few months he flitted back to the capital.

Hitherto his life had been one of constant and well-merited success, but now a hand was interposed to stop the onward course of victory. It must be confessed that his own unwisdom drew it on him. In the University of Copenhagen a Dr. Clausen was Professor of Theology; Grundtvig, who had long passed beyond the romantic theology of Steffens, considered Clausen too much addicted to rationalistic ideas, and openly, even violently, charged him with heresy. The result was a law-suit for libel, and Clausen was successful. Grundtvig was heavily fined, and placed under ecclesiastical censure, a ban which was not removed for sixteen years. He retired from publicity in consequence, and lived as a private man of letters; the languages and popular literature of the peoples of the North continued to be his constant study. He interested himself in Anglo-Saxon, and, that he might explore all the streams of that language at their fountain-head, he paid four successive visits to England. In 1842, especially, when the Tractarian movement at Oxford was beginning to work so powerfully in the English Church, Grundtvig, who had watched the battle from afar, came over to us again, that he might study on the spot the various currents of excited religious opinion then dividing English society. All this while he was not entirely without public influence in theological matters; soon after his disgrace, he sought and at last obtained permission to preach in a single church in Copenhagen, where he, Sunday by Sunday, declaimed and exhorted in his peculiar manner to a select audience of disciples. At first his influence was very small, but his pupils, if few, were extremely enthusiastic, and his doctrines have so far spread as to have formed a sect who glory in the name of Grundtvigians, and who comprise within their numbers a large proportion of the inhabitants of Denmark and Norway, and not a few in Sweden. In his later years he has spent much labour in advocating a new scheme of education for the peasants, by means of what are called Popular High Schools. These schools are carried on under Grundtvigian principles that is, everything the old poet has counselled is carried out on an extravagant scale for he remarked, it is said, that he never was a " Grundtvigian" himself, and never sanctioned half the follies that are perpetrated in his name. These High Schools are now found all over Denmark and Norway. The peasants meet together, men and women, in the winter nights, and are taught to read and write, if that is needful, but chiefly receive oral instruction in the elements of singing, and, above all, study the history of their country in Grundtvig's rhythmical chronicles and songs. In Denmark the schools are extremely popular, and the spirit of hatred towards the "German tyrant" is strongly fostered in them, for every Grundtvigian is, above all things, intensely a Dane.

In religious matters Grundtvig never divided himself distinctly from the Danish Church ; to the last he remained within the pale of it. But at the very time that he was confuting the neologism of Professor Clausen he was developing views at variance with Danish orthodoxy. He opposed the usual view of the inspiration of the Bible with great subtlety, and with evident sincerity, though his views were neither entirely logical nor entirely original. He first made public his convictions at the very time when an extremely interesting work of an analogous character was appearing in England, the Confessions of an Inquiring Spirit, by S. T. Coleridge. But while Coleridge conscientiously refers to Lessing as the suggestor of his ideas, Grundtvig was under the impression that his own were entirely new. The formula upon which all that is peculiar in his teaching rests, is that " the Church of Christ is founded on a word, and not on a book;" and so, without in any way rejecting the Bible, he considers it secondary to the Creed, and would fain trace this last to the actual oracular word of Jesus. If this theory be vague, it is at the same time quite undeniable that Grundtvig has brought about a great and salutary revival in the practical character of the Danish Church. He has introduced animated and popular preaching, hearty singing and frequent communions, with a new and excellent hymn-book for general use, in which he has superseded the tiresome and conventional pieces of the last century in favour of the stirring and national hymns of such ancient poets as Kingo and Brorson. At the same time, the most sober-minded theologians looked askance at Grundtvig's doctrinal laxities. He was an old Pagan at heart, after all, a viking baptised, indeed, and zealous for the faith, but dim on all crucial questions of dogma. His youth had been wearied by much abstract talk about virtue, and it was the conquering power and wide-spreading enthusiasm, rather than the morality of the gospel, that charmed him. The picturesque and anthropomorphic features of religion delighted him to a dangerous excess, and he was not always very sure if it were Christ or Baldur for whom he fought. The great point was to be always fighting for some pure and personal deity. For the Old Testament he scarcely disguised his indifference. His ardour and his glowing passion made the common people hear him gladly, but grave theologians, such as Dr. Martensen and Dr. Fog, eminent divines whose creed was crystallised in systems of Christian ethics and Christian dogmatics, always held aloof from the rash and emotional schismatic. Grundtvig's title of Bishop was only an honorary one; he never held a diocese.

As a poet, one of the greatest of Scandinavian critics has called Grundtvig "the younger brother of Oehlenschläger ; " but he differed greatly from that eminent man, and indeed from all later Danish poets, in being no artist, but essentially a fighter, a man of action. He never cared to address the polite world of letters ; he wrote poems for the people, and in return there is no poet in our time whose works have been read and loved in the homes of the peasants as his have been. " Like a bird in the greenwood, I would sing for the country folks, so that my song might pass from mouth to mouth, and give delight from one generation to another. It will be my greatest happiness, as a child-like poet, if I can write songs that will make bare legs skip in the street at the sound of them. That shall be called my best poem, my greatest glory and memorial, which is the greatest favourite in Danish harvest-fields when the girls are binding sheaves. That shall be my crowned and accepted poem which inclines most girls to the dances at every country wedding." This is, at least, a very intelligible ambition, and a very arduous one. It can hardly be said that Grundtvig has the perfect simplicity and repose that such an aim requires. He is, perhaps, of foreign writers, the one most near to Carlyle in temperament. On all sides of his genius he was a little too destructive ; he gloried throughout his long life in opposing himself to conventional forms and conventional aspirations ; he even found an exhilaration in the mere act of fighting. He was a dangerous old literary bersark to the last. Slightly altering his own words, we may take them as describing his life's course ; --

" This hero followed not the tide ;
He dashed the waves of thought aside,
Above his hair their wild spray passed,
But only silvered it at last."

It was in lyrical composition that he achieved the greatest triumphs ; as a lyrist he will always rank high among the poets of the North, although he lacked the gifts of concentration and compression.

II.

There can never have existed two poets more widely different in genius and disposition than Grundtvig and Bödtcher, who for nearly eighty years lived as fellow-citizens of the same little state. They had less in common than Burns and Keats; the first was essentially a man of action, the second as essentially a dreamer and an artist. Ludvig Adolph Bödtcher was born on April 22, 1793, being thus by eight months Shelley's junior. When he was a very little child the young Oehlenschläger came to act in private theatricals with his brothers, and thus in his father's house the boy. became acquainted with the new romantic literature. Oehlenschläger became his first master in verse, but he soon learned to express his very plastic and definite genius in his own way. In 1812 he went to the university, and lounged easily through an uneventful student-life in which love and verse outweighed the attractions of deep study. Early in life his innocent epicureanism asserted itself, and when in 1824 his father died, leaving him a small fortune, he did not hesitate an hour, but set off at once to live in Italy. He settled in Rome ; his rooms looked on to the Piazza Barberini, and exactly opposite him was Thorwaldsen's studio. For eleven years he received at his window every morning the great sculptor's greeting from the shining street below, and he became in time the most intimate of all the friends of Thorwaldsen. In his own house he held a little court for Scandinavian poets and painters visiting Rome; and the enjoyable monotony of his life was only broken by little excursions into the mountains or to the Bay of Naples. His favourite spot outside Rome was Nemi, the scenery of which inspired several of his most exquisite verses.

The simplicity and idle ease of Rome delighted Bödtcher ; he was able to do exactly what he pleased, and in company with Thorwaldsen he associated with an extra ordinary group of personages. To the studio came the King of Bavaria, the ex-King of Holland, Dom Miguel of Portugal, and Napoleon's old mother Letitia, while Bödtcher counted among his own visitors not these only, but King Frederick VII. of Denmark, Sir Walter Scott, Cornelius and Horace Vernet. To study so motley a crew of notabilities was the young Danish poet's delight, and he filled up the odd corners of his time by polishing to their last perfection one after another of his own adorable verses, composing with the utmost deliberation and at long intervals.

In 1835 Thorwaldsen died, and it then became apparent that Bödtcher had deserved well of Denmark, for it was only by his constant and untiring effort that the versatile sculptor had been induced to leave his works to his own country. Bödtcher had had to fight the battle step by step with the King of Bavaria, who had made up his mind to secure the sculptures for Munich, and who could not conceal his displeasure when the poet outwitted him at last by inducing Thorwaldsen to sign the deed of bequest. To accompany the precious freight to Copenhagen, Bödtcher tore himself away from Italy. With all his late friend's masterpieces around him, he set out from Leghorn with a gay "a rivederla!" to the Italian coast, which he was not fated to revisit. For finding himself once again in Copenhagen, his easy indolent nature led him to put off the idea of returning southwards until his life had taken root again in the North. As, however, he made a little Denmark around him in Rome, so in Copenhagen he contrived to enjoy something still of Italy. With his guitar, his roses, his quaint friends, he lived his own life without constraint, profoundly careless, because unconscious, of the "fall of sceptres and of crowns." His philosophy was that of Anacreon, or rather of Omar Khayyam : he never vexed himself about his soul; he lived for enjoyment only, but then he enjoyed not merely the sunshine, and flowers, and choice wines, but still more the conversation of his friends and the diapason of the noble poetry of all time. He was no critic, but his range of poetic pleasures was very wide; and if he had a fault, it was foolish indulgence to every needy man of letters who sought his help or his sympathy. To Bödtcher went the poetess who was "misunderstood" at home, and the antiquarian whose researches a cold world derided. In him at least they always found an auditor. It did not occur to him to publish his own poems until 1856, when he was already an elderly man. They fill one slender volume, which has been augmented since his death by another still more slender.

Ludvig Bödtcher is one of the most finished poets that the North has produced : the entire collection of his works is no larger than the poems of Thomas Gray, but almost every one of them is a gem, cut and engraved with the most exquisite precision. In metrical construction his lyrics have an extraordinary delicacy and shapeliness ; he is the most consummate artist in form among the Danish poets. His most characteristic pieces unite a kind of dry sparkle of humour with the intense light and vivid form of antiquity or of Italian landscape. Among these the longest and finest is "The Meeting with Bacchus," a delicious "piece of Paganism," as Wordsworth would have called it. The poet leaves the dewy gardens of Frascati in the early morning, and on a stout mule climbs towards Monte Porcia. The rosy radiance of the morning strikes them as they pass the ancient Tusculum, and the smiling poet finds that the mule is smiling too. In this joyous mood they wend on their way, and the poet falls into a dream, in which the lovely modern landscape becomes full of antique life. At last, at the side of an old rock-cistern, he shouts " Evoë ! " and starts to hear a triple echo. Suddenly he perceives at his side the ancient altar cf Bacchus, and before him rise a motley group of satyrs.

"And to ! in a quiet reverie beside me, a youth lay stretched upon the marble, with a dreamy smile as if his thoughts re-kindled the dark fires of antique art.

The sandal which bound his foot was delicately fastened; one arm supported his head, the other, with a glass in the hand, lay along the table naked, as though Phidias had carved it.

Mine eyes sank when that youth turned and gazed on me, for midnight owns no star so sparkling as his eyes were, and yet my looks were chained to their clear fires."

The youth pours out a cup of wine, and when the poet praises it, says coldly, "Non c'é male ! " "Not bad, indeed! show me a better," cries the guest. "Si, Signore !" replies the youth, and bids him follow. He leads him to a rustic dwelling in the rock, all overgrown with ivy, and leads him down into a cellar. He crushes marvellous red grapes into a beaker, and the poet lifts up his song of praise to Bacchus, while still the youth gravely smiles.

"He lowered the beaker ; there came a cascade of fire, a murmur of vine-leaves, and then all the cavern was filled with a perfume of wine, mingled with roses and jasmine.

I drank, while my eyes gazed intently beyond the glory and the vapour ; the first grew like a magian's lamp, the last became a dim veil of pearl, through which all seemed mistier but fairer than before.

It seemed to me that pillars rose from the floor, and shot out marble shoulders, over which a cupola sprang high into the roof, and that round the alabaster of the walls the ivy swung in festoons.

But such a mist hung round me ! then it cleared, and lo ! the wine-casks had disappeared, and seven yellow leopards, still and severe, lay watching me, with folded paws.

Then, reeling with the vision, I turned to the youth that brought me thither smiling. He rested, majestic, on a thyrsus, and his look was terrible. I fell before him in the dust, and stammered ' Dionysos !"

He wakes to find that he has been dosing in the wood by the road-side, and that his mule stands patiently by him. I cannot hope in this bald sketch to give any idea of the form and beauty of a poem that approaches as near perfection as modern verses can. This is perhaps the finest of Bödtcher's lyrics, though there are several others that in precision and originality in the qualities of a cameo or an intaglio, clear form carved in colour come very near it.

I had the privilege of being presented to this charming old man and divine poet, during the last year of his life. He was living in Svaertegade, a little street in Copenhagen, where he occupied rooms high up the house, close under the sky. I was introduced by an esteemed friend of his, and the singularly genial and gentle manner of his welcome put me at my ease with him at once. His sitting-room was thoroughly in keeping with his character. It was filled with works of art and memorials of his life in Italy. Behind his arm chair stood Bissen's bust of the poet when he was a young and handsome man. It could not be said of him at eighty-one that he was otherwise than pleasant-looking, although the loss of one eye was a marked disfigurement. He wore dark spectacles and a snuff-coloured wig ; his figure was tall and spare, his fore-head very full at the temples; and his mouth had evidently been large and sensitive, like Keats's. His one bright eye was still of an extraordinary brilliancy and vivacity. It was the first year, he explained to me, that he had not been able to get out into the beech-woods on "Pinsedag" or Whitsunday, a day on which Copenhagen is always deserted, and the forests are filled. It was on Whitsunday that we visited him, and the old gentleman was a little inclined to be mournful about it. But he cheered up as the sun came out and lighted into intense pale green the young leaves of a beech-tree, in a pot which filled the window, flanked by two rose-bushes. " Ah !" he said, "the sun through the leaves is as good as a flower to me, and when you are gone, I shall sit for the rest of the day and dream of the woods." He talked readily of his friendship with Thorwaldsen, and chuckled as he recounted the oft-told tale of how he outwitted the King of Bavaria. While he talked he sat on a forhöining, or raised platform, in the window; his restless eye seemed all the while to follow something, and presently I discovered that opposite him an oblique mirror allowed him to watch the life passing in the street below. On the wall behind him hung his guitar; of his carpet he used to say that it was very costly, when you considered how many of the best cigars had to be consumed over it before it got so rich a colour, from the descending smoke; every object in the room had its particular anecdote or association connected with it; each could only have belonged to Bödtcher, and the gentle epicurean seemed not the least precious or the least antique of the objects of art.

His smile was sweet and humorous such a smile as Charles Lamb might have given a visitor in his happiest and quietest hours. It was on the 25th of May 1874 that I had the pleasure of his welcome; next day I received a little note and the poet's photograph. In July he sent me a kind greeting in a letter from Christian Winther, and on the 1st of October of the same year he died, after one day's illness. To the very last he clung to his old habits, singing his own songs in a feeble, broken voice, and playing meanwhile on the guitar. He left behind him the fragrant memory of a long life, in which there was no sadness or baseness, but in which art and an affectionate nature were self sufficient to the close.

III.

There was no man of genius in Europe so accessible as Hans Christian Andersen. Whether in his own house in Havnegade, or in the country at Rolighed, where his friends the Melchiors had fitted up rooms for him, he was at the service of any visitor who brought with him the pass-word of enthusiasm and respect. He delighted in publicity, and responded to the sympathy of strangers with the utmost alacrity. I saw him in r872, and again in 1874, and he did me the honour to write to me frequently between the earlier date and his death. Yet, although he accepted me at once into his intimacy, I can-not pretend that I have anything very characteristic to add to the published memorials of one of the most singular persons of our time. For Andersen throughout his long literary life never scrupled to make the world his confidante, and that with the utmost sincerity; so that his friends could but testify to the minute fidelity of his portrait of himself. It is true that that portrait is not to be found complete in those stories for children which are chiefly associated with his name in the mind of the English public. We have to read the Romance of My Life, and his chatty, egotistic books of travel, to realise his character, but in these it is drawn as firmly and coloured as richly as if Titian had survived to paint his features.

The passion for hoarding up little treasures of every kind pebbles that friends had picked up, leaves that had been plucked on a certain day, odd mementoes of travel and incident was always strongly developed in Andersen. He hated to destroy anything, and he dragged about with him, from one lodging to another, a constantly increasing store of what irritable friends were apt to consider rubbish.

In like manner, he could not endure to tear up paper with writing upon it, even if that writing were disagreeable or derogatory to his dignity. Hence, when his executors began to examine the piles of MS. that the poet had left behind him, they came upon such a mass of correspondence as few eminent persons can ever have bequeathed. Most people are glad to destroy any letter in which their own conduct is sharply criticised or in which reproof is administered to an obvious fault. But it was part of the crystal innocence of Andersen's character, than whom a simpler or a purer creature never breathed, to preserve with the utmost impartiality the good and the evil, the praise of his friends and their blame. Consequently, there is little need of personal memorials of Andersen. In his writings we can trace every change of temperament, every turn and whim of this guileless and transparent mind.

Few English people, perhaps, are aware how numerous and how versatile are the writings of Andersen. He attempted almost every form of authorship in the course of his long life. He was born on April 2, 1805, at Odense, in the Danish island of Funen. His father, a poor shoe-maker, whose love of books and book learning made him discontented with his trade, died in the poet's early childhood, and until his confirmation Andersen was left in the charge of his mother, an ignorant and superstitious but kindly person. Until Andersen's death the true raciness and originality of her mind were unknown ; but her letters to her son, which then came to light, prove her to have been, in shrewdness, wit, and sense, worthy to be the mother of a great man. Except during the few hours' wretched instruction at the Poor School, he was chiefly occupied with a little theatre of marionettes, on which he brought out various pieces, generally of his own composition. This early taste for theatrical pursuits was nourished in the child by a visit paid to Odense by some of the company of the Royal Theatre of Copenhagen. The actors gave special performances, and on these occasions Andersen managed to get on the boards and mix with the supers. After this, of course, the Copenhagen stage was the great aim of his life.

After his confirmation in the autumn of 1819, he travelled up to the capital to try his fortune, and entered the dancing and singing school at the theatre; but it soon became plain that he had no histrionic talent, and when his voice broke he was obliged to leave. However, he had managed to awaken interest in several very distinguished men in Collin, Rahbek, the Oersteds, Baggesen, Weyse, and Siboniand by their efforts he obtained a free entrance into the Latin school at Slagelse ; when the rector of the school, the learned Meisling, was transferred to the college at Helsingör, he took Andersen with him. Meisling, however, though learned, was unsympathetic, and without understanding at all what was great and lovely in Andersen's character, made his eccentricities the object of untiring ridicule. The young man who had already written The Dying Child, and appeared as a poet, in 1827, in such influential journals as the Kjobenhavnspost and Heiberg's Flyvende Post, could at last bear this no longer, and came back to Copenhagen, where L. C. Möller introduced him into the University in 1828. The year after he published his first important work, A Journey on Foot from Holmen's Canal to the East Point of Amager, and the same year had produced, on the boards of the Royal Theatre, Love on St. Nicholas' Tower, a comic vaudeville in rhymed verse, which parodied the romantic dramas of the day; during the ensuing Christmas season appeared his first collection of poems, of which several already had attained considerable notoriety in the Flyvende Post.

In 1830 Andersen made the first of many travels, a tour in Funen and Jutland, and in 1831 published a volume of Fancies and Sketches, which was not so well received as his earlier works, and was especially cut up by Hertz in his powerful Gjenganger-Breve. This want of success, a blighted love experience, and other misfortunes threw Andersen into a painful condition of despondency, and he was ordered to travel for his health. He went to Germany, and published on his return Shadow-Pictures of a Tour in the Hartz and Saxon Switzerland. In 1832 appeared his Vignettes of Danish Poets, and a new volume of poems entitled The Twelve Months of the Year. He was lucky enough to receive a draft of money for travelling from the Government in the spring of r833, and proceeded to Paris, where he met the enfeebled and almost blind P. A. Heiberg. Later in the year he was in Rome, where he fell in with Thorwaldsen and Bödtcher, and with his own great opponent, Hertz. In the summer of 1834 Andersen returned to Copenhagen, where in the meantime his beautiful dramatic poem, Agnete and the Merman, which he had sent home from Switzerland, had appeared. After his return was published in 1835 his exquisite romance, The Improvisatore, which he had commenced in Rome, and in which he sketches the life of the country folk in Italy, as in his next romance, O. T, which came out the year after, he sketches the same in Denmark.

But in the meantime, by the publication of his first volume of Eventyr, or Fairy Tales, in 1835, Andersen had laid the foundation of his immense reputation, and the successive series of these stories, unapproached in modern literature for depth, pathos, and humour, continued to appear Christmas by Christmas, the most welcome gift to young and old. In 1852 they ceased to be entitled Eventyr and were called Historier. To the same class belongs the inimitable Picture-Book without Pictures, 1840. To his novels Andersen added in 1848 The Two Baronesses. In 1837 came Only a Player. Another novel was To be or Not to be. In 1853 Andersen published his own autobiography, under the title of Iffy Life's Romance. As a dramatic author he has also shown no small genius, though this is not the most brilliant side of his life's work. The romantic dramas of The Mulatto, 1840, and The King is Dreaming, 1844; the romantic operas of Little Christie, 1846; The Wedding by Lake Como, r848 ; with certain small comedies, especially The New lying-In Room ("Den ny Barselstue "; Barselstuen being a very popular piece by Holberg), 1845, attained very marked success at the Royal Theatre, which was also the case with the fairy comedies, More than Pearls and Gold, Ole Lukoie, and Hyldemoer, which were brought out in 1849, 1850, and 1851 respectively at the Casino Theatre at Copenhagen. Andersen was incessantly moving hither and thither over the Continent of Europe, and on one occasion he crossed the Mediterranean Sea. The results of his observations were given to the public in a variety of chatty and picturesque volumes, of which the most characteristic were A Poet's Bazaar, 1841; In Sweden, 1849 ; and In Spain, 1863.

Andersen's nature craved the excitement of travel, and wherever he went he made himself acquainted with the prominent literary people of the place. There is no doubt that this personal habit helped his genius to make itself heard outside the borders of Denmark sooner than it would otherwise have done, but this has also been greatly exaggerated in Denmark, where some unworthy but not inexplicable jealousy was felt of the ubiquitous poet who carried his fame over Europe with him. It is well known that Andersen was a visitor of Dickens's at Gadshill; two years earlier he had been Wagner's guest in Berlin, and almost every literary or artistic man of eminence in Europe received a visit from him at one time or another. In 186r he was at Rome just in time to see Mrs. Browning before her death, and to receive from her the last stanzas she ever wrote :

" ' And oh ! for a seer to discern the same ! '
Sighed the South to the North.
` For a poet's tongue of baptismal flame,
To call the tree or the flower by its name !'
Sighed the South to the North.

The North sent therefore a man of men
As a grace to the South,
And thus to Rome came Andersen.
Alas, but you must take him again !
Said the South to the North"

verses which the old poet was never tired of repeating in his broken English.

Among all his multitudinous writings, it is of course his so called Fairy Tales, his Eventyr, that show most distinctly his extraordinary genius. No modern poet's work has been so widely disseminated throughout the world as these stories of Andersen's. They affect the Hindoo no less directly than the Teutonic mind; they are equally familiar to children all over the civilised world. It is the simple earnestness, humour, and tenderness that pervades them, their perfect yet not over-subtle dramatic insight, their democratic sympathy with all things in adverse and humble circumstances, and their exquisite freshness of invention that characterise them most, and set them on so lofty a height above the best of other modern stories for children. The style in which they are composed is one never before used in writing ; it is the lax, irregular, direct language of children that Andersen employs, and it is instructive to notice how admirably he has gone over his earlier writings and weeded out every phrase that savours of pedantry or contains a word that a child cannot learn to understand. When he first wrote these stories he was under the influence of the German writer Musaeus, and from 183o to about 1835 he was engaged in gradually freeing himself from this exotic manner, and in bringing down his style to that perfection of simplicity which is its great adornment.

In character, Andersen was one of the most blameless of human creatures. A certain irritability of manner that almost amounted to petulance in his earlier days, and which doubtless arose from the sufferings of his childhood, became mellowed, as years went on, into something like the sensitive and pathetic sweetness of a dumb animal. There was an appeal in his physical appearance that claimed for him immunity from the rough ways of the world, a childlike trustfulness, a tremulous and confiding affectionateness, that threw itself directly upon the sympathy of those around. His personality was somewhat ungainly : a tall body with arms of very unusual length, and features that recalled, at the first instant, the usual blunt type of the blue-eyed, yellow-haired Danish peasant. But it was impossible to hold this impression after a moment's observation. The eyes, somewhat deeply set under arching eyebrows, were full of mysterious and changing expression, and a kind of exaltation which never left the face entirely, though fading at times into reverie, gave a singular charm to a countenance that had no pretension to outward beauty. The innocence and delicacy, like the pure frank look of a girl-child, that beamed from Andersen's face, gave it an unique character hardly to be expressed in words; notwithstanding his native shrewdness, he seemed to have gone through the world not only undefiled by, but actually ignorant of its shadow-side.

The one least pleasing feature of his character was his singular self-absorption. It was impossible to be many minutes in his company without his referring in the naivest way to his own greatness. The Queen of Timbuctoo had sent him this; the Pacha of Many Tails had given him such an Order; such a little boy in the street had said, " There goes the great Hans Andersen!" These reminiscences were incessant, and it was all the same to him whether a little boy or a great queen noticed him, so long as he was favourably noticed. If, however, the notice was unfavourable, he was inconsolable for the time being, and again in this case it mattered nothing from what source the censure carne. The Norwegian poet Welhaven used to relate that he was once in a Copenhagen coffee-house with Andersen, when the latter, glancing at one of the lowest and most ribald prints of the hour, became suddenly excessively agitated. With trembling hands he pointed out to Welhaven a passage in which some miserable penny-a-liner had pointed a coarse jest with an allusion to Andersen's appearance. "Is it possible," Welhaven asked, "that you, with a European reputation, care what such a man says of you in such a place?" "Yes," replied Andersen, with tears in his eyes, "I do a little!" This intense craving for perpetual laudation, no matter from whom, was an idiosyncrasy in Andersen's character not to he confounded with mere vulgar vanity.

It sometimes assumed really magnificent proportions, as when he once said to a friend of mine, an old friend of his own, in depreciation of some fulsome praise from abroad, "It is true that I am the greatest man of letters now living, yet the praise should not be to me, but to God who has made me so." It was a strange and morbid characteristic, to be traced, no doubt, to the distressing hardships of his boyhood. It was harmless and guileless, but it was none the less fatiguing, and it was so strongly developed that no biographical sketch of him can be considered fair that does not allude to it. During his lifetime, it would have been inhuman to vex his pure spirit by dwelling on a weakness that was entirely beyond his own control; but it is only just to his own country-men, who have been so harshly blamed for their want of sympathy with him, to mention the fact which made Andersen's constant companionship a thing almost intolerable. In a small community like that of Copenhagen, a little personal peculiarity of this kind is not so easily over-looked as in a wider circle.

He passed peacefully away at eleven o'clock on the morning of August 4, 1875. He died just outside the northern suburb of Copenhagen, at Rolighed, in the arms of a family who had devoted themselves for years to the care of their eminent guest; here he fell asleep, in the truest sense, for out of a mild and peaceful slumber of many hours' duration, he never wakened. He had been suffering acutely and hopelessly from a complaint that now proved to have, been cancer, and for some years past his life had been one of ceaseless suffering, patiently and even heroically borne. Four months before the end he had completed his seventieth year, and in the festivities of that day he had been able in great measure to join. He could never rally from the relapse brought on by the excitement of this birthday, which was celebrated by the whole nation, from the royal family downwards, as a public holiday. He had the joy of receiving the greatest honour a poet can take from his country, the erection of a statue which will remind all coming generations of his outward form and feature, and having lived to receive this glory, not from one man or one clique of men, but from all Denmark, it was permitted him to rest from his suffering. He could not have died at a moment when his fame, spread from one end of the world to the other, was more living than it is now, and in dying he took from among us the most popular of all contemporary writers of the imagination. It is said that the very last literary subject in which he took interest was the history and work of his own great predecessor, the Hindoo fabulist, Bidpai, and the best books on that writer lay strewed upon his death-bed.

Iv.

So many poets came up to the University of Copenhagen in 1828, that some wit dubbed them the four greater and the twelve minor prophets. This classification caused a great deal of amusement at the time, and is still remembered because Hans Christian Andersen happened to be one of the major prophets, and Paludan-Müller to be one of the minor. The minor prophet, indeed, lived to see himself easily first among the children of Parnassus in Denmark.

Frederik Paludan-Müller was the third son of a remarkable man, Jens Paludan-Müller, who died as Bishop of Aarhuus, and who became famous after his death as a theological writer of much vigour. Each of his sons became distinguished in one way or another. Frederik, the poet, was born at Kjerteminde, a little town in Funen, on February 7, 1809. He went to school at Odense in 1820, a few months after Andersen oor little forlorn adventurer that he was left that city for the capital. In 1832 he worte four romances in the hope of gaining a prize by the Society of Fine Arts. He was unsuccessful, but the romances, which were published, attracted attention. The same year he brought out a romantic drama, Love at Court, which had a considerable run, and still holds the stage. But when, in 1833, he printed his delicious poem of The Dancing Girl, with all its profusion of wit, pathos, and melody, his position as a poet was made. In 1834 he opened a new poetic vein, since admirably worked by Swinburne amongst ourselves, and by Paul Heyse in Germany, with his lyrical drama of Amor and Psyche, a work displaying stilistic gift of the first order, which produced much such a sensation in Copenhagen as, thirty years later, attended Atalanta in Calydon with us. At this point he began to go a little wrong; his next production, a story in rhyme, called Zuleima's Flight, being tinged with Byronisms and other inscrutable insipidity. The two volumes of Poems, however, in 1836 and 1838, redeemed his reputation. All this time the poet had been quietly working away at his literary and juridical studies, and had attained his thirtieth year with no more exciting experience than could be contained in a walking-tour through the north of Zealand. He set out, however, in 1838, for a two years' wandering over Europe ; he only once left Denmark again. The life of such a hermit is but a catalogue of his works. In 184r he published his lyrical drama of Venus, and the first part of Adam Homo, an epic which it is customary to mention as his masterpiece. In 1844 appeared the noble drama of Tithonus and the delicate idyl of The Dryad's Wedding. His later productions were the conclusion of Adam Homo, 1848 ; Abel's Death, 1854 ; Kalanus, 1857; Paradise, 1861; Spirits of Darkness in the Night, 1862; Iva'. Lykke's Story, a prose novel ; The Times are Changing, a comedy, 1874; and Adonis, 1874. In the face of such a barren list of titles, the curse of Babel does indeed become a burden. It is useless to recommend the reader to the books themselves, and how is a weary critic to persuade him of the value of their contents? This, however, I shall presently attempt to do.

In 1872 Paludan-Müller was living in one of a little group of houses in the Royal Park of Fredensborg, on the left-hand side in driving up to the palace. It would be difficult to secure a more poetic situation. The great undulating park extended on all sides, with its classic solitude, its rich hoard of memories from the last century, and its delicious greensward swept by the long boughs of the beeches. From the back of the poet's house, the park sloped away to the Esrom Lake, the most beautiful of all the beech-surrounded meres of North Zealand. There, in the most exquisite silence, broken only by the sound of a deer that came down to drink, the poet could watch from dawn to gloom

" The lake-reflected sun illume
The yellow bees in the ivy-bloom."

The court was never at Fredensborg, except for a little time in the summer, and the idyllic quiet of the park was unbroken. The old palace was always there to remind the wanderer, with its clean white walls and green cupola, of the beperiwigged gentlemen and bepatched ladies that had flirted down its smooth arcades. The place fostered the morbid melancholy of Paludan-Müller, and yet it possessed that note of refinement and personal elegance which he would have missed in a retreat more purely sylvan. When I saw him first he had not received a stranger for years ; he asked pardon for his manifest agitation, as some veritable Robinson Crusoe might do in suddenly reviewing a European face. But he was then at the very point of recovering from his strange, melancholy illness, and so far woke up to new life that he proposed to me a series of early morning walks, and at last conceived it possible that he might journey to London. This he never contrived to do, but he returned to Copenhagen and to society, and when I saw him again in 1874 he was looking ten years younger. He had a singularly fine and spiritual face, the eyes large and clear, the hair silvery when I knew him, but deep yellow in earlier life. In speaking he expressed himself with emphasis, and in some cases a little too dogmatically for modern habits of thought, and he had but slight personal sympathy for his contemporaries. I was full of enthusiasm for the Norwegian poet, Ibsen, and spoke of him on one occasion to Paludan-Müller, but he confined himself to a rather cynical condemnation of the close of Brand. It was evident that he found no place in art for anything but the ideal beauty of which he was himself so exquisite an exponent. His adoration for the memory of his father was a very marked point in his character; in a review of one of his books I had especially indulged this pious foible in order to please him, and he recollected it two years afterwards with vehement commendation. The news of his death was a great surprise to his friends, for he had regained an unwonted vigour in 1874 and 1875. But the winter of 1876, that was fatal to Christian Winther, was fatal also to him, and within three days ; for while the latter died on December 30, Paludan-Müller died on December 27, 1876.

There can be little doubt that posterity will judge Adam Homo to be its author's greatest claim to a place among poets of the first class. This epic, in ottava rima, is the history of a single man, a Dane in the Denmark of the poet's day, from his cradle to his grave. The hero is a Philistine of the Philistines, but his character is worked out with an irony so subtle that we begin by sympathising with the man that we end in ridiculing and despising.

The poem is full of great and original qualities ; humour and satire give place in rapid interchange to descriptive and pathetic passages of the most delicate beauty. Dr. Brandes, in his brilliant volume on the modern Danish poets (Danske Digtere, 1877), a work no Scandinavian student should be without, has very justly said of Adam Homo that it is " a piece of Denmark, a piece of our history, a piece of living cloth cut out of the web of time." But to the foreign reader it certainly lacks the cosmopolitan interest of the writer's lyrical dramas. Of these the greatest is, without doubt, Kalanus, and I cannot give a better idea of the genius of Paludan-Müller than by an analysis of this noble poem.

The scene is laid far back in heroic times, when the great presence of Alexander overshadowed the ancient world, and the story of his patience, and his labour, and his glory was in the mouth of all men living. Kalanus, an Indian, born by the Ganges, and brought up in a temple of Brama, has been living in the hills near the sources of the Indus as a solitary mystic, worshipping the Invisible Unity whom men call Brama. Day after day, kneeling by the river-side among the palms, he has prayed and longed for a manifestation of the incarnate Godhead. Born about the same time as the son of Philip of Macedon, his life has been spent in the silence of unbroken devotion, tended by his old mother and a faithful slave. Meanwhile, Alexander has driven like a tempest through the world, achieving the ultimate possible aim of an active sensuous nature. To Kalanus in his mystical existence of almost supernatural calm comes the glorious Alexander, sailing up the Indus with his fleet ; the mystic had been praying most importunately for the divine vision --

" There by the prow I saw him stand,
With helmless hair, and like the morning sun !
His lotus-eyes flashed beams of radiance round !
For ever all my heart and soul are his ! "

In absolute faith that this is Brama, he forces himself into Alexander's presence. The conqueror, pleased with his enthusiasm, invites him to join his train, and forthwith Kalanus, his old mother, and all their small possessions, are moving with the Greek army in its westward retreat. The first important halt is at Pasargadae, in Persia, and here the play opens and continues to the end.

The first act begins with a fine symphony that strikes the key-note of the whole play at once. Kalanus and his mother are saluting the rising sun with their song of morning prayer, that their pure souls may rise with his into the ethereal kingdom of the Truth, losing body and sense in the perfection of the soul. This is the day on which Kalanus is to have audience of Alexander, and he counts the hours till the splendid moment shall arrive. Sankara, his mother, who knows nothing of his conviction, is troubled by his sudden passion for the Great King, and asks its cause. "Why," she asks, "is the clear flame of thy devotion, which no wind could move, now become a quivering tongue of unsteady fire ? Has the sight of one man so changed thee?" Then he unfolds to her his newborn faith, that this hero, that man called Alexander, is no other than the universal Brama made flesh to visit humanity. To his dazzled and inexperienced imagination all things seem to point to this one goal, and his intensity easily wins Sankara to his view. Most subtly is the growth of this new faith, born of desire and introspection, and fed by distance from its object, sketched by the poet in Kalanus's confession to his mother ; we are won into love and respect for the mild mystic at once, and the dreamier his speculations are, the more musical is his expression of them. Passing over some side-scenes of great interest, we move on to the meeting of Kalanus and Alexander. The Indian approaches the palace as if it were a sanctuary, but his soul has no fear of the divinity ; all his nature is absorbed in that pure love that casts out fear ; he will at last wind his frail humanity round the omnipotent deity, as the ivy curls round the straight stem of the cocos-palm. Alexander meets him with the light patronage of an emperor at his ease, rallying Kalanus good-naturedly on his reticence and gloom, but saying nothing so obviously mortal as to shake the Indian in his confidence. Presently the conversation turns on those questions of divine ethics which are nearest to the heart of Kalanus. The reticence of the mystic melts in the fiery heat of his own ecstasy, and pours itself along the channels of Alexander's activities and aims, so strange to him. His soul overflows with the sudden accession of new thoughts and new desires, and the king, becoming deeply interested in his impassioned admirer, adopts a seriousness unusual to him, and exerts his great and masculine intelligence in presenting new ideas of energetic action to the passive Indian. The soul of Kalanus, in his own esteem, now first wakes into full bloom of thought ; this one interview with the divine though concealed Brama has effected it,

" As in my country, after one night's rain,
The desert blossoms with a million flowers;"

—and he throws himself into the dust in adoration.

The beginning of the next act is occupied with the humours of two Greek philosophers Mpsos, a sensual atheist and scoffer; Pyrrhon, a troubled doubter—who argue, and after a while combine to cross-question Kalanus and to trouble his pure soul, unused to such a spirit of false philosophy. To Mopsos the enthusiasm of Kalanus for the king is merely the cringing of a toady; to Pyrrhon, it is a mystery of genuine belief almost incredible in its novelty. Alexander and Hephaestion join the three, and Kalanus once more basks in the sunlight of Brama's supposed presence. All minor vexations are lost in the joys of adoration. The progress of this long scene is in the highest degree masterly; the five characters are drawn with a firm and vigorous hand, and the interest, though of a purely intellectual character, is sustained and heightened to the end. Kalanus, whose utterances during his season of complete conviction were conspicuous for harmony, becomes more and more fragmentary and discordant as Alexander, in the easy neighbourhood of friends, slips into a frivolous vein of badinage that is most unlike the spirit of Brama. As the wine heats his brain, Alexander becomes still more jocose, and orders Kalanus to dispute with Mopsos on philosophical questions; the Indian, struggling against his own dejection, obeys. The selfish scepticism of Mopsos is reproved by the sublime mysticism of his opponent, who proclaims that the ultimate desire of the soul is to be absorbed into the Eternal,

"Returning like a drop of dew, and lost
In that great fountain-ocean whence it came."

As this great idea, new to all the scoffing Greeks, is being discussed and ridiculed, the doors burst open, and the whole changes into one of those splendid scenes of glowing, sensuous colour, in painting which Paludan-Müller shows a singular delight. A chorus of girls, led by two of the most distinguished hetairai of the time, all garlanded, and singing to the music of stringed instruments, rush into the palace. No one heeds Kalanus, who has risen behind Alexander, and stands there rigid and pale with passion. There follows some exquisite choral writing, and at last Thais, pouring out her soul into a lyric that is like a "god's voice hidden in a bird," throws her lute aside and flings herself into the arms of Alexander. But before she can reach her royal lover, Kalanus is between them, with a knife, ready to sacrifice the impious nymph. The king angrily brushes him aside, Thais rushes to embrace Alexander, and the whole company, singing and shouting, leave the palace to seek fresh revels else-where. Kalanus is left alone, a dying priest in a polluted shrine ; the god he has been worshipping proved to be a mere man, the slave of wine and women, tossed about by vulgar and ungodlike passions. He departs in unutterable sorrow.

In the third act, Alexander, repenting of his folly under the exhaustion of the morning after the revel, is troubled at the absence of Kalanus, and learning that a pyre is being built on which it is reported that the Indian is about to destroy himself, he supposes that the cause of Kalanus's despair is his own harshness, and starts in person to reassure him of favour. In a later act Sankara and her son are discovered in their hut, and Kalanus is sleeping. He wakes calm and quiet, but when Sankara attempts to dissuade him from self-immolation, his purpose is shown to be firm and absolute, and again she gives way before his more powerful will. But in his sleep he has had a glorious vision of Brama, and his fancy is no longer haunted by the desire of an anthropomorphic revelation of the God-head, but is securely content to pass into the splendour of a Presence whose form and fashion he knows not, but in whom he trusts with an infinite repose. This vision of glory, and a clearer intellectual perception of the mystery of divine things, lift him above all mundane hopes and fears. His mother leaves him to prepare the bath of purification, and Alexander enters, addressing Kalanus with gracious courtesy. To the conqueror's intense surprise, he finds, instead of a suppliant, broken-hearted at his feet, a calm and resolute opponent. Alexander assures him of his friendship; takes for granted that this report of a funeral pyre is untrue; commands, entreats, at last kneels to him for a promise to save his own life; storms at him with sudden passion ; entreats again, but to no avail. Kalanus stands outside the magic ring, and in the power of his purity is stronger of will than the world's master. This is one of the most powerful scenes in the poem, Tired out with his efforts, Alexander leaves him at last, swearing to prevent his purpose with physical force. But here also the mystic's will is stronger than the king's, and in the last act Alexander sanctions the burning of Kalanus. The philosopher approaches his own fiery tomb with a solemn elation, a sublime joy. Dismissing the troops, casting aside the adornments that Alexander has sent to do him honour, he gathers his own countrymen about him, mounts the pyre, and in the midst of a choral invocation to the spirit of Brama, expires, his soul rising to the skies like wine poured out into the fire. The chorus around pro-claim his absorption into the Universal Oneness that is spirit and light.

The work which seems to me to approach most nearly to the classic severity and grace of " Kalanus" is the last thing that Paludan-Müller published, his greeting to approaching Death, of whom he had ever been a lover. This is Adonis, a short poem of less than fifty stanzas, in the manner of the early mythological studies in which the poet developed his poetic individuality in its purest and most ideal form. It belongs to the same class of his writings as Tithon and Amor and Psyche, though it is much slighter and more direct than these. Charon is represented as just setting his sail to catch the weak wind that blows along the Styx, when he hears a voice cry to him from the landing-place, and before he has time to turn, a beautiful youth has leaped into his boat. The thin ghosts shudder together at the unwelcome coming of one so full of life. Charon inquires his name, and learns that it is Adonis, who, snatched away from men by Aphrodite, has found that good fortune at last a burden, whose heart has remained unsatisfied among all the Paphian roses, and who now has escaped from her, and goes to lay his devotion and his desire at the feet of Persephone, flying from pleasure that he may find rest. "For I must always love, and always love a goddess ; that was my destiny, and I have followed it all my life. Venus and Proserpine were near when I was born, and before I began to breathe two goddesses were contesting to possess me." Aphrodite has held his manhood first; now, weary of a love so exciting and so exhausting, he turns with irrepressible longing to the goddess, crowned with calm leaves, in whose hushed dominions there are no budding and no falling flowers. The boat of Charon passes in silence down the dark channel, roofed in with rocks, the pulse of the oars alone breaking the deep stillness. Arrived at the harbour of death, a shade summons the coming shades to the banquet of Pluto. Adonis sees them disappear, as he stands alone upon the desolate margin of the stream. Presently a dead-pale maiden comes, bearing a torch, and cries, " Charon, is he come ? " This girl Persephone sends daily to inquire if Adonis has arrived. At last, after so many years, the answer is "Yes!" She binds his eyes, and leads him through the realms of death, down into the hall of the infernal gods, where, when his eyes are unbound, he sees Persephone sitting on her throne in silence and solitude. A, tinge of red flies to her white cheeks, she opens her majestic arms, and breathes his name; with an outburst of passionate love he throws himself at her feet, and tells her how, even in the arms of Aphrodite, he has loved her, and now has flown to her to experience with her keener and deeper pleasures than the earthly goddess could give him. But Persephone repels his caresses, and warns him that she has no love to give him that can be likened with the love of passion ; if he seeks for that he is deceived, yet she also loves him, and she has better gifts for whom she loves. While the beautiful Adonis still clasps her knees with his hands, she bids a maiden fill a beaker with the waters of Lethe. He drinks the divine nepenthe, and has only just time to respond to the kiss the goddess presses on his mouth, before he sinks at her feet in slumber, and lays his weary head upon her knee. So, through the ages these two remain unmoving—Adonis in a happy dream, forgetful of all past passions and desires, Persephone bending over him with a grave smile, pleased at her final victory over her earthly rival. The open heavens are above them ; and time is only marked by the waxing and the waning of the moon.

1877



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