Andersen, Muller, & Kierkegaard


Georg Brandes lived from 1842-1927 and wrote these essays about Hans Christian Andersen and Frederik Paludan-Muller in his book Eminent Authors of the Nineteenth Century.  Brandes also included Ibsen in his essays. He mentioned Kierkegaard in these essays so I have put them here. All the essays in his book are in public domain.

Kierkegaard wondered if people would just read the critic or read the Thing in itself – the author’s book.

HCA by Thora Hallager 1869.jpg


He who possesses talent should also possess courage. He must dare trust his inspiration, he must be convinced that the fancy which flashes through his brain is a healthy one, that the form which comes natural to him, even if it be a new one, has a right to assert its claims; he must have gained the hardihood to expose himself to the charge of being affected, or on the wrong path, before he can yield to his instinct and follow it wherever it may imperiously lead. When Armand Carrel, a young journalist at the time, was censured by the editor of the paper for which he wrote, who, pointing to a passage in the young man’s article, remarked, “That is not the way people write,” he replied, “I do not write as people write, but as I myself write,” and this is the universal formula of a gifted nature. It countenances neither fugitive rubbish, nor arbitrary invention, but with entire self-consciousness it expresses the right of talent, when neither traditional form nor existing material suffices to meet the peculiar requirements of its nature, to choose new material, to create new forms, until it finds a soil of a quality to give nurture to all of its forces and gently and freely develop them. Such a soil the poet Hans Christian Andersen found in the nursery story.


In his stories we meet with beginnings like this: “Any one might have supposed that something very extraordinary had happened in the duck-pond, there was such a commotion. All the ducks—some swimming, some standing in the pond with their heads downward—suddenly jumped on land, leaving the traces of their feet in the wet clay, and sending forth a loud, startled cry,” or like the following: “Now, then, let us begin. When we are at the end of the story, we shall know more than we know now: but to begin. Once upon a time there was a wicked sprite, indeed, he was the most mischievous of all sprites!” The construction, the position of the words in individual sentences, the entire arrangement, is at variance with the simplest rules of syntax. “This is not the way people write.” That is true; but it is the way they speak. To grown people? No, but to children; and why should it not be proper to commit the words to writing in the same order in which they are spoken to children? In such a case the usual form is simply exchanged for another; not the rules of abstract written language, but the power of comprehension of the child is here the determining factor; there is method in this disorder, as there is method in the grammatical blunder of the child when it makes use of a regular imperfect for an irregular verb. To replace the accepted written language with the free, unrestrained language of familiar conversation, to exchange the more rigid form of expression of grown people for such as a child uses and understands, becomes the true goal of the author as soon as he embraces the resolution to tell nursery stories for children? He has the bold intention to employ oral speech in a printed work, he will not write but speak, and he will gladly write as a school-child writes, if he can thus avoid speaking as a book speaks. The written word is poor and insufficient, the oral has a host of allies in the expression of the mouth that imitates the object to which the discourse relates, in the movement of the hand that describes it, in the length or shortness of the tone of the voice, in its sharp or gentle, grave or droll character, in the entire play of the features, and in the whole bearing. The nearer to a state of nature the being addressed, the greater aids to comprehension are these auxiliaries. Whoever tells a story to a child, involuntarily accompanies the narrative with many gestures and grimaces, for the child sees the story quite as much as it hears it, paying heed, almost in the same way as the dog, rather to the tender or irritated intonation, than to whether the words express friendliness or wrath. Whoever, therefore, addresses himself in writing to a child must have at his command the changeful cadence, the sudden pauses, the descriptive gesticulations, the awe-inspiring mien, the smile which betrays the happy turn of affairs, the jest, the caress, and the appeal to rouse the flagging attention—all these he must endeavor to weave into his diction, and as he cannot directly sing, paint, or dance the occurrences to the child, he must imprison within his prose the song, the picture, and the pantomimic movements, that they may lie there like forces in bonds, and rise up in their might as soon as the book is opened. In the first place, no circumlocution; everything must be spoken fresh from the lips of the narrator, aye, more than spoken, growled, buzzed, and blown as from a trumpet: “There came a soldier marching along the high-road—one, two! one, two!” “And the carved trumpeters blew, ‘Trateratra! there is the little boy! Trateratra!'”—”Listen how it is drumming on the burdock-leaves, rum-dum-dum! ram-dum-dum!’ said the Father Snail.” At one time he begins, as in “The Daisy,” with a “Now you shall hear!” which at once arrests the attention; and again he jests after the fashion of a child: “So the soldier cut the witch’s head off. There she lay!” We can hear the laughter of the child that follows this brief, not very sympathetic, yet extremely clear presentation of the destruction of an imposter. Often he breaks into a sentimental tone, as for instance: “The sun shone on the Flax, and the rain-clouds moistened it, and this was just as good for it as it is for little children when they are washed, and afterward get a kiss from their mother; they become much prettier, and so did the Flax.” That at this passage a pause should be made in the narrative, in order to give the child the kiss mentioned in the text, is something to which every mother will agree, and which seems to be a matter of course; the kiss is really given in the book. This regard for the young reader may be carried still farther, inasmuch as the poet, by virtue of his ready sympathy, so wholly identifies himself with the child and enters so fully into the sphere of its conceptions, into its mode of contemplation, indeed, into the range of its purely bodily vision, that a sentence like the following may readily flow from his pen: “The biggest leaf here in the country is certainly the burdock-leaf. Put one in front of your waist, and it is just like an apron, and if you lay it upon your head, it is almost as good as an umbrella, for it is quite remarkably large.” These are words which a child, and every child, can understand.

Happy, indeed, is Andersen! What author has such a public as he? What is, in comparison, the success of a man of science, especially of one who writes within a limited territory for a public that neither reads nor values him, and who is read by four or five—rivals and opponents! A poet is, generally speaking, more favorably situated; but although it is a piece of good fortune to be read by men, and although it is an enviable lot to know that the leaves of our books are turned by dainty fingers which have employed silken threads as book-marks, nevertheless no one can boast of so fresh and eager a circle of readers as Andersen is sure of finding. His stories are numbered among the books which we have deciphered syllable by syllable, and which we still read to-day. There are some among them whose letters even now, seem to us larger, whose words appear to have more value than all others, because we first made their acquaintance letter by letter and word by word. And what a delight it must have been for Andersen to see in his dreams this swarm of children’s faces by the thousands about his lamp, this throng of blooming, rosy-cheeked little curly-pates, as in the clouds of a Catholic altar-piece, flaxen-haired Danish boys, tender English babies, black-eyed Hindoo maidens,—rich and poor, spelling, reading, listening, in all lands, in all tongues, now healthy and merry, weary from sport, now sickly, pale, with transparent skin, after one of the numberless illnesses with which the children of this earth are visited,—and to see them eagerly stretch forth this confusion of white and swarthy little hands after each new leaf that is ready! Such devout believers, such an attentive, such an indefatigable public, none other has. None other either has such a reverend one, for even old age is not so reverend and sacred as childhood. In considering this public we can conjure up a whole series of peaceful and idyllic scenes: yonder some one is reading aloud while the children are listening devoutly, or a little one is sitting absorbed in its reading, with both elbows resting on the table, while its mother, in passing by, pauses that she too may read over the child’s shoulder. Does it not bring its own reward to write for such a circle of auditors? Is there, indeed, one that has a more unspotted and ready fancy?

There is none, and it is only needful to study the imagination of the audience, in order to become acquainted with that of the author. The starting-point for this art is the child’s play that makes everything out of everything; in conformity with this, the sportive mood of the artist transforms playthings into natural creations, into supernatural beings, into heroes, and, vice versa, uses everything natural and everything supernatural—heroes, sprites, and fairies—for playthings, that is to say, for artistic means which through each artistic combination are remodelled and freshly stamped. The nerve and sinew of this art is the imagination of the child, which invests everything with a soul, and endows everything with personality; thus, a piece of household furniture is as readily animated with life as a plant, a flower as well as a bird or a cat, and the animal in the same manner as the doll, the portrait, the cloud, the sunbeam, the wind, and the seasons. Even the leap-frog, made of the breastbone of a goose, becomes thus for the child a living whole, a thinking being endowed with a will. The prototype of such poesy is the dream of a child, in which the childish conceptions shift more rapidly and with still bolder transformations than in play; therefore, the poet (as in “Little Ida’s Flowers,” “Ole Shut Eye,” “Little Tuk,” “The Elder-Tree Mother”) likes to seek refuge in dreams as in an arsenal; therefore, it is, when he busies his fancy with childish dreams, such as fill and trouble the mind of childhood, there often come to him his wittiest inspirations, as, for instance, when little Hjalmar hears in his dream the lamentation of the crooked letters that had tumbled down in his copy-book: “‘See, this is how you should hold yourselves,’ said the Copy. ‘Look, sloping in this way, with a powerful swing!’ ‘Oh, we should be very glad to do that,’ replied Hjalmar’s letters, ‘but we cannot; we are too weakly.’ ‘Then you must take medicine,’ said Ole Shut Eye. ‘Oh no,’ cried they; and they immediately stood up so gracefully that it was beautiful to behold.” This is the way a child dreams, and this is the way a poet depicts to us the dream of a child. The soul of this poetry, however, is neither the dream nor the play; it is a peculiar, ever-childlike, yet at the same time a more than childlike faculty, not only for putting one thing in the place of another (thus, for making constant exchange, or for causing one thing to live in another, thus for animating all things), but also a faculty for being swiftly and readily reminded by one thing of another, for regaining one thing in another, for generalizing, for moulding an image into a symbol, for exalting a dream into a myth, and, through an artistic process, for transforming single fictitious traits into a focus for the whole of life. Such a fancy does not penetrate far into the innermost recesses of things; it occupies itself with trifles; it sees ugly faults, not great ones; it strikes, but not deeply; it wounds, but not dangerously; it flutters around like a winged butterfly from spot to spot, lingering about the most dissimilar places, and, like a wise insect, it spins its delicate web from many starting-points, until it is united in one complete whole. What it produces is neither a picture of the soul nor a direct human representation; but it is a work that with all its artistic perfection was already indicated by the unlovely and confusing arabesques in “The Foot Journey to Amager.” Now while the nursery story, through its contents, reminds us of the ancient myths (“The Elder-Tree Mother,” “The Snow Queen”), of the folk-lore tale, on whose foundation it constructs itself at times, of proverbs and fables of antiquity, indeed, sometimes of the parables of the New Testament (the buckwheat is punished as well as the fig-tree); while it is continually united by an idea, it may, so far as its form is concerned, be compared with the fantastic Pompeian decorative paintings, in which peculiarly conventional plants, animated flowers, doves, peacocks, and human forms are entwined together and blend into one another. A form that for any one else would be a circuitous route to the goal, a hindrance and a disguise, becomes for Andersen a mask behind which alone he feels truly free, truly happy and secure. His childlike genius, like the well-known child forms of antiquity, plays with the mask, elicits laughter, awakens delight and terror. Thus the nursery story’s mode of expression, which with all its frankness is masked, becomes the natural, indeed, the classic cadence of his voice, that but very rarely becomes overstrained or out of tune. The only disturbing occurrence is that now and then a draught of whey is obtained instead of the pure milk of the nursery story, that the tone occasionally becomes too sentimental and sickly sweet (“Poor John,” “The Poor Bird,” “Poor Thumbling”), which, however, is rarely the case in materials taken from folk-lore tales, as “The Tinder-Box,” “Little Claus and Big Claus,” etc., where the naïve joviality, freshness, and roughness of the narrative, which announces crimes and murders without the slightest sympathetic or tearful phrase, stand Andersen in good stead, and invest his figures with increased sturdiness. Less classic, on the other hand, is the tone of the lyric effusions interwoven with some of the nursery stories, in which the poet, in a stirring, pathetic prose gives a bird’s-eye view of some great period of history (“The Thorny Path of Honor,” “The Swans’ Nest”). In these stories there seems to me to be a certain wild flight of fancy, a certain forced inspiration in the prevailing tone, wholly disproportionate to the not very significant thought of the contents; for thought and diction are like a pair of lovers. Thought may be somewhat larger, somewhat loftier, than diction, even as the man is taller than the woman; in the opposite case there is something unlovely in the relation. With the few exceptions just indicated, the narrative style of Andersen’s nursery stories is a model of its kind.

Let us, in order to know them thoroughly, watch the poet at his work. Let us, by studying his manner of procedure, gain a deeper comprehension of the result. There is one instance wherein his method may be clearly followed, and that is when he remodels anything. We do not need, in such a case, merely to observe and to praise in vague generalities, by making comparison with a different mode of narrative; we can sharply and definitely declare, point for point, what he has omitted, what he has rendered prominent, and thus see his individual production grow up under our eyes. One day, in turning over the leaves of Don Manuel’s “Count Lucanor,” Andersen became charmed by the homely wisdom, of the old Spanish story, with the delicate flavor of the Middle Ages pervading it, and he lingered over Chapter VII., which treats of how a king was served by three rogues.

“Count Lucanor spoke one day with Patronio, his counsellor, and said to him, There is a man who has come to me and addressed me on a very important subject. He gives me to understand that it would conduce in the highest degree to my advantage. But he says that no man in the world, however highly I may esteem him, must be allowed to know anything about it, and he so earnestly enjoins upon me to keep the secret that he even assures me all my possessions and my life itself will be imperilled if I reveal it to any one. And as I know that nothing can come to your knowledge that you cannot determine whether it be meant for a blessing or with deceitful intent, I beg of you to tell me how this matter strikes you. Sir Count, replied Patronio, in order that you may be able to comprehend what should, in my opinion, be done in this matter, I beg of you to hearken unto how a king was served by three rogues, who sought his presence. The count asked what it was that took place.” This introduction resembles a programme; we first learn the bold question to which the story following is to be the answer, and we feel that the story owes its existence solely to the question. We are not permitted to draw for ourselves from the narrative the moral that it seems to us to contain; it must be directed with a violent effort to the question concerning the amount of confidence that is due people who are shrouded in mystery. Such a method of telling a story is the practical, not the poetic one; it places undue limits on the pleasure the reader takes in discovering the hidden moral for himself. True, the fancy is gratified to find its work made easy, for it does not really desire to exert itself; but neither does it like to have its easy activity anticipated; like old people who are permitted to keep up a semblance of work, it does not wish to be reminded that its work is mere play. Nature pleases when it resembles art, says Kant; art, when it resembles nature. Why? Because the veiled purpose gives pleasure. But no matter, let us read further in the book.

“Sir Count, said Patronio, there once came three rogues to a king and stated that they were most superior masters in the manufacture of cloth, and that they especially understood how to weave a certain stuff which was visible to everyone who was actually the son of the father whom all the world supposed to be his, but which was invisible to him who was not the son of his supposed father. This pleased the king greatly, for he thought that with the aid of this fabric he could learn which men in his kingdom were the sons of those who were legally accredited to be their fathers, and which were not, and that in this way he could adjust many things in his kingdom; for the Moors do not inherit from their fathers if they be not truly their children. So he gave orders to have the men conducted to his palace in which they could work.”

The beginning is delightful, there is humor in the story; but Andersen thinks that if it is to be rendered available for Denmark, another pretext must be chosen, one better adapted to children, and to the well-known northern innocence. And, besides, this king in the story is merely like a figure on the chess-board. Why was it that the rogues came to him? What sort of character does he possess? Is he fond of show? Is he vain? He does not stand out distinctly before the reader’s eye. It would be better if he were an absolute fool of a king. He ought in some way to be characterized, to be stamped by a word, a phrase.

“And they told him that, in order to be sure they were not deceiving him, he might lock them up in the palace until the fabric was finished, and this pleased the king vastly!” They now receive gifts of gold, silver, and silk, spread abroad the tidings that the weaving has begun, and through their bold indication of pattern and colors cause the king’s messengers to declare the fabric admirable, and thus succeed in obtaining a visit from the king, who, as he sees nothing, “is overcome by a deathly terror, for he believes that he cannot be the son of the king whom he has considered his father.” He therefore praises the fabric beyond measure, and every one follows his example, until one day on the occasion of a great festival he puts on the invisible garment; he rides through the city, “and it was well for him that it was summer.” No one could see the fabric, although every one feared to confess his inability to do so, lest he should be ruined and dishonored. “Thus this secret was preserved, and no one dared reveal it, until a negro who tended the king’s horse, and had nothing to lose, went to the king” and affirmed the truth.

“Who bids you keep a secret from a faithful friend,
Will cheat you too as surely as he has a chance.”

The moral to this neat little story is most ludicrous and at the same time but poorly indicated. Andersen forgets the moral, puts aside, with a sparing hand, the clumsy precept which causes the story to deviate from the point which is its true centre, and then tells, with dramatic vivacity, in the form of a dialogue, his admirable story about the vain emperor, of whom it was said in the city, “The Emperor is in the wardrobe.” He brings the narrative quite home to us. There is nothing whose existence people are afraid to deny for fear of passing for a bastard, but there is much concerning which people dare not speak the truth, through cowardice, through fear of acting otherwise than “all the world,” through anxiety lest they should appear stupid. And this story is eternally new and it never ends. It has its grave side, but just because of its endlessness it has also its humorous side. “‘But he has nothing on!’ said the whole people at length. That touched the Emperor, for it seemed to him that they were right; but he thought within himself, ‘I must go through with the procession.’ And so he held himself a little higher, and the chamberlains held on tighter than ever, and carried the train which did not exist at all.” It was Andersen who made the narrative comic.

But we can enter still more closely into relation with Andersen’s method of story-telling; we have seen him place before us in a new form a foreign tale; we can now also see how he remodels his own attempts. In the year 1830 Andersen published in a volume of poetry, “The Dead Man, a Folk-lore Tale from Fünen,” the same which he remoulded later under the tide of “The Travelling Companion.” The narrative, in its original form, is aristocratic and dignified; it begins in the following way: “About a mile from Bogensee may be found, on the field in the vicinity of Elvedgaard, a hawthorn so remarkable for its size that it can even be seen from the coast of Jutland.” Here there are pretty, rural descriptions of nature, here may be detected the masterly hand of a skilful author. “The first night he quartered on a haystack in the field, and slept there like a Persian prince in his resplendent chamber.” A Persian prince! This is an idea quite foreign to little children. Suppose we put in its place: “The first night he slept on a haystack, out in the fields, for there was no other bed for him; but it seemed to him so nice and comfortable that even a king need not wish for a better.” This is intelligible. “The moon hung, like an Argantine lamp, from the vaulted ceiling, and burned with a perpetual flame.” Is not the tone a more familiar one when we say: “The moon, like a large lamp, hung high up in the blue ceiling, and he had no fear of its setting fire to his curtains.” The story of the doll’s comedy is rewritten; it is sufficient when we know that the piece treats of a king and a queen; Ahasuerus, Esther, Mordecai, who were named in the original, are too learned names for children. If we hit upon a life-like stroke, we hold fast to it. “The queen threw herself on her knees, took off her beautiful crown, and, holding it in her hand, cried: ‘Take this from me, but do rub (with healing ointment) my husband and his courtiers.'” Such a passage is one of those in which the nursery story tone penetrates the polished form; one of those in which the style that says “thou” to the reader thrusts aside the one that says “you.” In illustration, a whole swarm of comparisons throng upon us. “From the host our travellers learned that they were in the realm of the King of Hearts, an excellent ruler, and nearly related to the King of Diamonds, Silvio, who is sufficiently well known through Carlo Gozzi’s dramatic folk-lore tale, ‘The Three Pomegranates.'” The princess is compared with Turandot, and of John it is said: “It would seem as though he had recently read Werther and Siegwart; he could only love and die.” A shrill discord for the nursery tale style. The words are not those of the child’s treasury of language; the tone is elegant, and the illustrations are abstract. “John spake, but he knew not himself what he was saying, for the princess bestowed on him so blessed a smile, and graciously extended her white hand for him to kiss; his lips burned, an electric current ran through him; he could enjoy nothing of the refreshments the pages offered him, he saw only the beautiful vision of his dreams.” Let us once hearken to this in the style so familiar to us all: “She looked wonderfully fair and lovely when she offered her hand to John, and he loved her more than ever. How could she be a wicked witch, as all the people asserted? He accompanied her into the hall, and the little pages offered them gingerbread nuts and sweetmeats; but the old king was so unhappy, he could eat nothing, and, besides, gingerbread nuts were too hard for him.”

In his youth, Andersen, who then took Musæus for his model, had not advanced far enough to understand how to mingle jest and earnest in his diction; they were always at variance; scarcely was utterance given to a sentiment before the disturbing parody made its appearance. John says a few words, in which he expresses his love, and the author adds: “O, it was so touching to hear! The poor young man, who was at other times so natural, so amiable, now spoke quite like one of Clauren’s books; but then, what will not love do?” On this point, with this pedantic frivolity, Andersen still persisted in 1830; but five years later the transformation process is at an end; his talent has shed its skin; his courage has grown; he dares speak his own language.

The determining element in this mode of speech was from the outset the childlike. In order to be understood by such youthful readers as those to whom he addressed himself, he was obliged to use the simplest possible words, to return to the simplest possible conceptions, to avoid everything abstract, to supply the place of indirect with direct language; but in thus seeking simplicity, he finds poetic beauty, and in attaining the childlike he proves that this childlike spirit is essential to true poetry; for that form of expression which is naïve and adapted to the general comprehension is more poetic than that which reminds the reader of industry, of history, of literature; the concrete fact is at once more life-like and more transparent than that which is presented as proof of a proposition, and the language which proceeds directly from the lips is more characteristic than the pale paraphrase with a “that.”

To linger over this language, to become absorbed in its word-treasury, its syntax, its intonation, is no proof of a petty spirit, and does not take place merely through love of the vocables or the idiom. True, language is but the surface of a work of poetic fancy; but if the finger be placed upon the skin, we may feel the throbbing pulse which indicates the heart-beats of the inner being. Genius is like a clock; the visible index is guided by the invisible spring. Genius is like a tangled skein, inextricable and knotted, as it may seem, it is nevertheless inseparably one in its inner coherence. If we but get hold of the outer end of the thread, we may slowly and cautiously endeavor to unravel even the most tangled skein from its coil. It is not harmed by the effort.


If we hold fast to the clue, we shall comprehend how the childlike in diction and sphere of conception, the true-hearted manner with which the most improbable things are announced, is just what invests the nursery story with its poetic worth. For what renders a literary production significant, what gives it circulation in space and lasting value in time, is the force with which it is able to present that which is propagated through space and which endures through time. It preserves itself by means of the vigor with which, in a clear and polished way, it renders perceptible the constant. Those writings which support tendencies or emotions whose horizon is limited in time or space, those which revolve about purely local circumstances or are the result of a prevailing taste, whose nourishment and whose image are found in these circumstances, will vanish with the fashion that has called them forth. A street song, a news-paper article, a festival oration, reflect a prevailing mood which for perhaps a week has superficially occupied the population of the city, and therefore have themselves a duration of about equal length. Or, to mount to a higher level, suppose there suddenly arises in a country some subordinate proclivity, as, for instance, the fancy for playing private comedies, which became an epidemic in Germany in the time of “Wilhelm Meister,” or in Denmark between 1820 and 1830. Such a tendency in itself is not wholly devoid of significance, but psychologically considered it is thoroughly superficial and does not affect the deeper life of the soul. If it be made an object of satire, as it was in Denmark, by Rosenkilde’s “The Dramatic Tailor,” or in “Sir Burchardt and his Family,” by Henrik Hertz, those works which, without representing the epidemic from a higher point of view, merely imitate and render it laughable, will be just as short-lived as it was. Let us now take a step higher, let us turn to the works which mirror the psychological condition of an entire race, an entire period. The good-natured drinking-song poetry of the past century, and the poetry written for political occasions, are such literary productions. They are historic documents, but their life and their poetic value are in direct ratio to the depth at which they approach universal humanity, the constant in the current of history. With greater and more marked significance in this gradual ascent stand forth these works, in which a people has seen itself portrayed for a half or for a whole century, or during an entire historic period, and has recognized the likeness. Such works must of necessity depict a spiritual condition of considerable duration, which, just because it is so enduring, must have its geologic seat in the deeper strata of the soul, as otherwise it would much sooner be washed away by the waves of time. These works incorporate the ideal personality of an epoch; that is to say, the personality which floats before the people of that time as its reflection and model. It is this personality which artists and poets chisel, paint, and describe, and for which musicians and poets create. In Grecian antiquity it was the supple athlete and the eagerly-questioning youth who was athirst for knowledge; during the Middle Ages it was the knight and the monk; under Louis XIV the courtier; in the beginning of the nineteenth century it was Faust. The works which represent such forms give expression to the intellectual condition of an entire epoch, but the most important of them express still more; they mirror and embody at the same time the character of an entire people, of an entire race, an entire civilization, inasmuch as they reach the most profound, most elementary stratum of the individual human soul and of society, which concentrates and represents them in its little world. In this way, with the aid of a few names, the history of an entire literature could be written, by simply writing the history of its ideal personalities. Danish literature, during the first half of the nineteenth century, is placed, for instance, between the two types, Oehlenschläger’s Aladdin and Frater Taciturnus in Kierkegaard’s “Stages in the Path of Life.” The former is its starting-point, the latter its perfection and conclusion. Now since the worth of these personalities, as before stated, depends upon how deeply they have their growth in the character of the people, or in human nature, it will readily be recognized that such a personality, for instance, as that of Aladdin, in order that it may be comprehended in its peculiar beauty, must be compared with the ideal personality which from the beginning of the period beamed upon us from the fancy of the Danish people. We find this personality by bringing together a large number of the oldest mythic and heroic characterizations of the people. If I were to cite a single name, I would choose that of Uffe the Bashful. In virtues as well as in faults he is a colossus of a Danish hero. It can readily be perceived how great a degree of resemblance all of Oehlenschläger’s best characters, his calm Thor, his nonchalant Helge, his indolent Aladdin, bear to this hero, and it will be seen during the contemplation how deeply Aladdin is rooted in the character of the people, while at the same time he is the expression of the ideal of an epoch whose duration was about fifty years. It could just as easily be rendered perceptible how Frater Taciturnus is one variety of the Faust type. Sometimes, therefore, it is possible to show how ideal personalities extend through the most divers countries and peoples, over an entire continent, leaving behind them their indelible stamp in a whole group of literary works which resemble one another as impressions of one and the same intellectual form, impressions of one and the same gigantic seal, with wafers of the most varied colors. Thus the personality that becomes most prominent in Danish literature, as “Johann, the Betrayer” (in Kierkegaard’s “Either—Or”) is derived from Byron’s heroes, from Jean Paul’s Roquairol, from Chateaubriand’s René, from Goethe’s Werther, and is at the same time represented in Lermontow’s Petschorin (“The Hero of Our Time”). The usual billows and storms of time will not suffice to overthrow such a personality; it was the Revolution of 1848 that first succeeded in setting it aside.

Extremes meet. For the same reason that a universal spiritual malady which exercises a powerful influence over humanity will spread simultaneously through the whole of Europe, and, because of its profundity, will cause the works that were first created as its portraits to live as its monuments; for the same reason, too, those works attain general European fame and become long-lived that reflect that which is most elementary in human nature—childlike fancy and childlike emotion, and consequently summon up facts which every one has experienced (all children lock up kingdoms with a key). They depict the life which existed in the first period of the human soul, and thus reach that intellectual stratum which lies the deepest with all peoples and in all lands. This is the simple explanation of the fact that Andersen alone of all the Danish writers has attained a European, indeed, more than a European, circulation. No other explanation has reached my ears, unless it be the one that would have his renown due to his having journeyed about and provided for his own fame. Ah, if journeys would accomplish such results, the travelling stipends for artists of all kinds that must of necessity be awarded each year would in the course of time provide Denmark with a rich bloom of European celebrities, as they have already furnished poet after poet. To be sure, the poets correspond with the way in which they are made. But even the remaining, less malicious explanations that may be brought forward, as, for instance, that Andersen alone among the greater Danish authors has written in prose, and is therefore the only one whose works can be translated without effort into other languages, or that his genre is so popular, or that he is so great a genius, state either too little or too much. There is more than one genius in Danish literature who is greater than Andersen; there are many who with respect to their endowments are by no means inferior to him; but there is none whose creations are so elementary.

Heiberg, as well as Andersen, possessed the courage to remodel a form of art (the vaudeville) in accordance with his own peculiarities, but he did not have the good fortune to find any one art form in which he could reveal his entire talent, combine all his gifts, as Andersen was able to do in the nursery story, nor to find materials in which interests of time and locality are of such enduring importance. His best vaudeville “The Inseparable Ones” (De Uadskillelige) would only be understood where there exists, as in the Scandinavian countries, a “Temperance Society for Happiness” (Ibsen’s expression for long betrothals), at which this vaudeville aims its shafts. But as the possessor of talent should also possess courage, so the possessor of genius should also possess good fortune, and Andersen has lacked neither good fortune nor courage.

The elementary quality in Andersen’s poetry insured him a circle of readers among the cultivated people of all lands. It was still more effectual in securing him one among the uncultivated people. That which is childlike is in its very essence of a popular nature, and a wide circulation corresponds with an extension downward. Because of the deep and grievous but most natural division of society into grades of culture, the influence of good literature is confined almost exclusively to one class. If in Denmark a series of literary productions like Ingemann’s romances make an exception, it is chiefly because of qualities which remove them from the cultivated classes through lack of truth to nature in the character delineations and in the historic coloring. With Ingemann’s romances it is the same as with Grundtvig’s theories: if one would defend them, it could not be done by proving their truth, but by practically laying stress on their outward usefulness, the advantage they have been to the Danish cause, to the interests of enlightenment and piety, etc. Ingemann’s romances stand, moreover, in noteworthy relation to Andersen’s nursery stories. The latter are read by the younger, the former by the older children. The nursery story harmonizes with the luxuriant imagination and the warm sympathy of the child, and the somewhat older maiden; the romance, with the fantastic desire for action of the child and especially of the somewhat older boy, with his growing taste for deeds of chivalry, with his conceit, his love of pleasing and daring. Romances are written for grown people; but the healthy mind of the nation has slowly dropped them until they have found their natural public in the age between ten and twelve years. Truth is something relative. At twelve years of age these books seem just as fall of truth, as at twenty they seem full of innocent lies. But they must be read before the twelfth year be gone, for at twelve and a half it is already too late for those who are a trifle advanced in intellectual development. With the nursery story the reverse is the case. Written in the beginning for children and constantly read by them, they speedily rose to the notice of grown people and were by them declared to be true children of genius.

It was a lucky stroke that made Andersen the poet of children. After long fumbling, after unsuccessful efforts, which must necessarily throw a false and ironic light on the self-consciousness of a poet whose pride based its justification mainly on the expectancy of a future which he felt slumbering within his soul, after wandering about for long years, Andersen, a genuine offspring of Oehlenschläger, strayed into Oehlenschläger’s footsteps, and one evening found himself in front of a little insignificant yet mysterious door, the door of the nursery story. He touched it, it yielded, and he saw, burning in the obscurity within, the little “Tinder-Box” that became his Aladdin’s lamp. He struck fire with it, and the spirits of the lamp—the dogs with eyes as large as teacups, as mill-wheels, as the round tower in Copenhagen—stood before him and brought him the three giant chests, containing all the copper, silver, and gold treasure stores of the nursery story. The first story had sprung into existence, and the “Tinder-Box” drew all the others onward in its train. Happy is he who has found his “tinder-box.”

Now in what sense is the child Andersen’s ideal form? There comes to every land a certain epoch in which its literature seems suddenly to discover what has long remained unobserved in society. Thus in literature are discovered by degrees the burgher (in Denmark by Holberg), the student, the peasant, etc. In the time of Plato, woman was not yet discovered, one might almost say not yet invented. The child was discovered at different periods in the literatures of different countries; in England, for instance, much earlier than in France. Andersen is the discoverer of the child in Denmark. Yet here, as everywhere else, the discovery does not take place without pre-suppositions and stipulations, and here, as everywhere in Danish literature, it is Oehlenschläger to whom thanks are due for the first impetus, the fundamental discovery which prepares the way for that of almost every later poet. The installation of the child in its natural poetic rights is only one of the many phenomena of the ascension to the throne of naïveté, whose originator in Danish literature is Oehlenschläger. The eighteenth century, whose strength lies in its critical understanding, whose enemy is its imagination, in which it sees but the ally and bondman of antiquated tradition, whose queen is its logic, whose king is Voltaire, the object of whose poetry and science in the abstract is the enlightened and social human being, sends the child, which is neither abstract, nor social, nor enlightened, from the parlor into exile in the remote nursery, where it may listen to nursery tales, traditions, and robber stories, to its heart’s content, provided it take good care to have forgotten all this worthless trash when it becomes a grown person. In the society of the nineteenth century (I do not draw the boundary line sharply on the frontiers) the reaction takes place. The individual, personal human being takes the place of the social human being. Consciousness alone had previously been valued, now the unconscious is worshipped. Schelling’s philosophy of nature breaks the spell of Fichte’s Ego system; war is carried on against the unfruitful intellectual reflection, the folk-lore tale and the nursery story are restored to their rights, the nursery and its occupants are brought into honorable esteem once more, at times even into too great favor. In all lands the folk-lore is collected, and in most countries poets begin to remould it. The sentimental German authors of the transition period (Kotzebue and Iffland) bring children on the stage, in view of touching the audience, even Oehlenschläger introduces children into his works and is, therefore, obliged to endure the censure of Heiberg. So far as society is concerned, silence has been enforced by Rousseau with his pedagogic declamations and theories, such attention as was never known before, is bestowed on the child and above all on the childlike nature, and the enthusiasm for the education of children (Campe) is gradually supplanted by the enthusiasm for the child’s “state of nature” (see Rousseau’s tendency, as displayed even in Götz von Berlichingen’s conversation with his little son).

There is but a step from the child to the animal. The animal is a child that will never be anything else than a child. The same tendency to make life a social life, which thrust aside the child, also banished the animal. The same thirst for simplicity, for nature, for all that is innocent and unconscious which led poetry to the child, led it also to the animal, and from the animal to all nature. Rousseau who champions the cause of the child, champions at the same time the cause of the animal; and first and foremost, as his Alpha and Omega, his “præterea censeo,” the cause of nature. He studies botany, writes to Linné, expresses to him his admiration and affection. The scientific contemplation of nature determines the social, which in its turn determines the poetic. Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, through his exquisite story “Paul and Virginia,” introduces descriptions of nature into French prose, and, what is particularly noteworthy simultaneously with his discovery of the landscape he introduces, as his hero and heroine, two children. Alexander von Humboldt takes “Paul and Virginia” with him on his journey to the tropical regions, admiringly reads the book aloud to his travelling companions in the midst of the nature which it describes, and refers with gratitude to what he owes to Saint-Pierre. Humboldt influences Oersted who in his turn profoundly influences Andersen. The sympathetic contemplation of nature operates on the scientific, which in its turn operates on the poetic. Chateaubriand, in his highly-colored brilliant manner, depicts a nature closely related to the one which Saint-Pierre has received in his peaceful, nature-worshipping soul. Steffens, in his celebrated lectures, first introduces to Denmark the natural system of nature. About the year 1831, at the period, therefore, when Andersen’s nursery stories originated, there is founded in England (the land which took the lead in bringing forward the child in literature) the first society for the prevention of cruelty to animals. Branches are established in France and Germany, where societies spring up in Munich, Dresden, Berlin and Leipsic. Kierkegaard in his “Enten—Eller” (Either—Or) turns the establishment of these societies into ridicule; he sees in it but a phenomenon of the tendency to form associations, which in his eyes is a proof of the lamentable condition of individual personality. If we return now to Denmark, we will observe that the national landscape painting, with its literal imitation of nature, takes its decisive upward soaring flight at precisely the time when nursery stories are devised. Skovgaard paints the lake in which “the ugly duckling” went splashing about, and at the same time—as by a miracle—the large city becomes too small for the citizen of Copenhagen. He finds it wearisome to gaze the whole summer long on its paving-stones, its many houses and roofs, he longs to see a larger bit of the sky, he repairs to the country, lays out gardens, learns to distinguish barley from rye, becomes a rustic for the summer months. One and the same idea, the recovered idea of nature, extends its influence through all the spheres of life, just as the water of an upland stream flowing downward is distributed through a series of different basins. Could an idea produce a more singular effect, or a more suggestive one for contemplation? During the past century there has been nothing similar. We may, as has been wittily remarked, rummage through Voltaire’s “Henriade,” without finding a single blade of grass; there is no fodder for the horses in it. We may turn over the leaves of Baggesen’s poems, without stumbling on a single description of nature, used even as an accessory. What a leap from this poetry to such poetry as that of Christian Winther, in which the human figures are merely used as accessories and the landscape is almost universally the main point of interest, and how far removed was the world, even in his day, from so much as dreaming of a poetry like that of Andersen, in which animals and plants fill the place of man, indeed, almost make man superfluous!

Now what is there in plants, in animals, in the child, so attractive to Andersen? He loves the child because his affectionate heart draws him to the little ones, the weak and helpless ones, of whom it is allowable to speak with compassion, with tender sympathy, and because when he devotes such sentiments to a hero,—as in “Only a Fiddler,”—he is derided for it (compare with Kierkegaard’s criticism), but when he dedicates them to a child, he finds the natural resting-place for his mood. It is owing to his genuine democratic feeling for the lowly and neglected that Andersen, himself a child of the people, continually introduces into his nursery stories (as Dickens, in his novels), forms from the poorer classes of society, “simple folk,” yet endowed with the true nobility of the soul. As examples of this may be mentioned the washerwoman in “Little Tuk” and in “Good-for-Nothing,” the old maid in “From a Window in Vartou,” the watchman and his wife in “The Old Street-Lamp,” the poor apprentice boy in “Under the Willow-Tree,” and the poor tutor in “Everything in its Right Place.” The poor are as defenseless as the child. Furthermore, Andersen loves the child, because he is able to portray it, not so much in the direct psychologic way of the romance,—he is by no means a direct psychologist,—as indirectly, by transporting himself with a bound into the child’s world, and he acts as though no other course were possible. Rarely, therefore, has charge been more unjust than that of Kierkegaard when he accused Andersen of being unable to depict children; but when Kierkegaard, who, moreover, as a literary critic combines extraordinary merits with great lacks (especially in point of historic survey), takes occasion, in making this criticism, to remark that in Andersen’s romances the child is always described “through another,” what he says is true. It is no longer true, however, the moment Andersen, in the nursery story, puts himself in the place of the child and ceases to recognize “another.” He seldom introduces the child into his nursery stories as taking part in the action and conversation. He does it most frequently in the charming little collection “A Picture-Book without Pictures,” where more than anywhere else he permits the child to speak with the entire simplicity of its nature. In such brief, naïve child-utterances as those cited in it there is much pleasure and entertainment. Every one can recall anecdotes of a similar character. I remember once taking a little girl to a place of amusement, in order to hear the Tyrolese Alpine singers. She listened very attentively to their songs. Afterward, when we were walking in the garden in front of the pavilion, we met some of the singers in their costumes. The little maiden clung timidly to me, and asked in astonishment: “Are they allowed to go about free?” Andersen has no equal in the narration of anecdotes of this kind. in his nursery stories we find sundry illustrations of the fact, as in the charming words of the child in “The Old House,” when it gives the man the pewter soldiers that he might not be “so very, very lonely,” and a few kind answers in “Little Ida’s Flowers.” Yet his child forms are comparatively rare. The most noteworthy ones are little Hjalmar, little Tuk, Kay and Gerda, the unhappy, vain Karen in “The Red Shoes,” a dismal but well-written story, the little girl with the matches and the little girl in “A Great Sorrow,” finally Ib and Christine, the children in “Under the Willow-Tree.” Besides these real children there are some ideal ones, the little fairy-like Thumbling and the little wild robber-maiden, undoubtedly Andersen’s freshest child creation, the masterly portrayal of whose wild nature forms a most felicitous contrast to the many good, fair-haired and tame children of fiction. We see her before us as she really is, fantastic and true, her and her reindeer, whose neck she “tickles every evening with her sharp knife.”

We have seen how sympathy with child-nature led to sympathy with the animal which is doubly a child, and to sympathy with the plants, the clouds, the winds, which are doubly nature. What attracts Andersen to the impersonal being is the impersonal element in his own nature, what leads him to the wholly unconscious is merely the direct consequence of his sympathy. The child, young though it may be, is born old; each child is a whole generation older than its father, a civilization of ages has stamped its inherited impress on the little four-year-old child of the metropolis. How many conflicts, how many endeavors, how many sorrows have refined the countenance of such a child, making the features sensitive and precocious! It is different with animals. Look at the swan, the hen, the cat! They eat, sleep, live, and dream undisturbed, as in ages gone by. The child already begins to display evil instincts. We, who are seeking what is unconscious, what is naïve, are glad to descend the ladder that leads to the regions where there is no more guilt, no more crime, where responsibility, repentance, restless striving and passion cease, where nothing of an evil nature exists except through a substitution of which we are but partially conscious, and which, therefore, robs our sympathy of half its sting. An author like Andersen, who has so great a repugnance to beholding what is cruel and coarse in its nakedness, who is so deeply impressed by anything of the kind that he dare not relate it, but recoils a hundred times in his works from some wanton or outrageous deed with the maidenly expression, “We cannot bear to think of it!” Such an author feels content and at home in a world where everything that appears like egotism, violence, coarseness, vileness, and persecution, can only be called so in a figurative way. It is highly characteristic that almost all the animals which appear in Andersen’s nursery stories are tame animals, domestic animals. This is, in the first place, a symptom of the same gentle and idyllic tendency which results in making almost all Andersen’s children so well-behaved. It is, furthermore, a proof of his fidelity to nature, in consequence of which he is so reluctant to describe anything with which he is not thoroughly familiar. It is, finally, an interesting phenomenon with reference to the use he makes of the animals, for domestic animals are no longer the pure product of nature; they remind us, through ideal association, of much that is human; and, moreover, through long intercourse with humanity and long education they have acquired something human, which in a high degree supports and furthers the effort to personify them. These cats and hens, these ducks and turkeys, these storks and swans, these mice and that unmentionable insect “with maiden’s blood in its body,” offer many props to the nursery story. They hold direct intercourse with human beings; all that they lack is articulate speech, and there are human beings with articulate speech who are unworthy of it, and do not deserve their speech. Let us, therefore, give the animals the power of speech, and harbor them in our midst.

On the almost exclusive limitation to the domestic animal, a double characteristic of this nursery story depends. First of all, the significant result that Andersen’s animals, whatever else they may be, are never beastly, never brutal. Their sole faults are that they are stupid, shallow, and old-fogyish. Andersen does not depict the animal in the human being, but the human in the animal. In the second place, there is a certain freshness of tone about them, a certain fulness of feeling, certain strong and bold, enthusiastic, and vigorous outbursts which are never found in the quarters of the domestic animal. Many beautiful, many humorous and entertaining things are spoken of in these stories, but a companion piece to the fable of the wolf and the dog—the wolf who observed the traces of the chain on the neck of the dog and preferred his own freedom to the protection afforded the house dog—will not be found in them. The wild nightingale, in whom poetry is personified, is a tame and loyal bird. “I have seen tears in the Emperor’s eyes; that is the real treasure to me,” it says. “An emperor’s tears have a peculiar power!” Take even the swan, that noble, royal bird in the masterly story, “The Ugly Duckling,” which for the sake of its cat and its hen alone cannot be sufficiently admired,—how does it end? Alas! as a domestic animal. This is one of the points where it becomes difficult to pardon the great author. O poet! we feel tempted to exclaim, since it was in your power to grasp such a thought, to conceive and execute such a poem, how could you, with your inspiration, your pride, have the heart to permit the swan to end thus! Let him die if needs must be! That would be tragic and great. Let him spread his wings and impetuously soar through the air, rejoicing in his beauty and his strength! let him sink down on the bosom of some solitary and beautiful forest lake! That is free and delightful. Anything would be better than this conclusion: “Into the garden came little children, who threw bread and com into the water. And they ran to their father and mother, and bread and cake were thrown into the water; and they all said, ‘The new one is the most beautiful of all! so young and handsome!’ and the old swans bowed their heads before him.” Let them bow, but let us not forget that there is something which is worth more than the recognition of all the old swans and geese and ducks, worth more than receiving bread-crumbs and cake as a garden bird,—the power of silently gliding over the waters, and free flight!

Andersen prefers the bird to the four-footed animal. More birds than mammals find place with him; for the bird is gentler than the four-footed beast, is nearer to the plant. The nightingale is his emblem, the swan his ideal, the stork his declared favorite. It is natural that the stork, that remarkable bird which brings children into the world,—the stork, that droll, long-legged, wandering, beloved, yearningly expected and joyfully greeted bird, should become his idolized symbol and frontispiece.

Yet plants are preferred by him to birds. Of all organic beings, plants are those which appear most frequently in the nursery story. For in the vegetable world alone are peace and harmony found to reign. Plants, too, resemble a child, but a child who is perpetually asleep. There is no unrest in this domain, no action, no sorrow, and no care. Here life is a calm, regular growth, and death but a painless fading away. Here the easily excited, lively poetic sympathy suffers less than anywhere else. Here there is nothing to jar and assail the delicate nerves of the poet. Here he is at home; here he paints his Arabian Nights’ Entertainments beneath a burdock leaf. Every grade of emotion may be experienced in the realm of plants,—melancholy at the sight of the felled trunk, fulness of strength at the sight of the swelling buds, anxiety at the fragrance of the strong jasmine. Many thoughts may flit through our brain as we follow the history of the development of the flax, or the brief honor of the fir-tree on Christmas evening; but we feel as absolutely free as though we were dealing with comedy, for the image is so fleeting that it vanishes the moment we attempt to render it permanent. Sympathy and agitation gently touch our minds, but they do not ruffle us, they neither rouse nor oppress us. A poem about a plant sets free twofold the sympathy to which it lays claim; once because we know that the poem is pure fiction, and again because we know the plant to be merely a symbol. Nowhere has the poet with greater delicacy invested plants with speech than in “The Fir-Tree,” “Little Ida’s Flowers,” and in “The Snow Queen.” In the last named story, every flower tells its own tale. Let us listen to what the Tiger-lily says: “Hearest thou not the drum? Bum! bum! those are the only two tones. Always bum! bum! Hark to the plaintive song of the old women! to the call of the priests! The Hindoo woman in her long robe stands upon the funeral pile; the flames rise around her and her dead husband, but the Hindoo woman thinks on the living one in the surrounding circle; on him whose eyes bum hotter than the flames; on him, the fire of whose eyes pierces her heart more than the flames which soon will bum her body to ashes. Can the heart’s flame die in the flame of the funeral pile?” —”I do not understand that at all,” said little Gerda.—”That is my story,” said the Tiger-lily.

Yet a step farther, and the fancy of the poet appropriates all inanimate objects, colonizes and annexes everything, large and small, an old house and an old clothes-press (“The Shepherdess and the Chimney Sweep”), the top and the ball, the darning needle and the false collar, and the great dough men with bitter almonds for their hearts. After it has grasped the physiognomy of the inanimate, his fancy identifies itself with the formless all, sails with the moon across the sky, whistles and tells stories like the wind, looks on the snow, on sleep, night, death, and the dream as persons.

The determining element in this poetic mind was, then, sympathy with all that is childlike, and, through the representation of such deep-seated, elementary, and constant spiritual conditions as those of the child, the productions of this imagination are raised above the waves of time, spread beyond the boundaries of their native land and become the common property of the divers classes of society. The time when genius was looked upon as a meteor fallen from the skies, has long since passed away; now it is known that genius, as all else that comes from nature, has its antecedents and its conditions, that it holds relations of general dependence with its epoch, is an organ for the ideas of the age. Sympathy for the child is only a phenomenon of the sympathy of the nineteenth century for whatever is naïve. Love of the unconscious is a phenomenon of the love of nature. In society, in science, in poetry and in art, nature and the child had become objects of veneration; in the realms of poetry, art, science, and society, there takes place a reciprocal action. If there arise, therefore, a poet whose affections are attracted to the child, whose fancy is allured by the animal, by plants, and by nature, he dares follow his impulses, he gains courage to give utterance to his talent, because a hundred thousand mute voices about him strengthen him in his calling, because the tide he believes himself to be stemming, rocks him gently as it bears him onward to his goal.

Thus it will be seen we can study the poet’s art by studying the ideas which are his inspiration. To contemplate these in their origin and their ramifications, in their abstract essence and their concrete power, is, therefore, no superfluous act, when it becomes our task to make a study of individual poetic fancies. For the bare idea cannot make poetry; but neither can the poet make poetry without the idea and without the surroundings which give it its impetus. About the fortunate poet there gathers a multitude who, in a less felicitous way, are working in his own vein; and about this multitude the people swarm as mute but interested fellow-laborers. For genius is like a burning reflector, which collects and unites the scattered rays of light. It never stands alone. It is merely the noblest tree in the forest, the highest ear in the sheaf, and it is first recognized in its real significance and in its true attitude when it is seen in its rightful place.


It does not suffice to indicate the quarter of the globe in which a genius dwells; we cannot travel through Denmark with a map of Europe for our guide. In the first place, it is necessary to see the locality more accurately described, and, even then, we no more know a genius because we happen to be familiar with his relations and surroundings than we know a city because we have walked around its walls. For though a genius may be partially, he cannot be exhaustively, explained by the period in which he lives. What is transmitted to him he combines under a new law; a product himself, he brings forth products which he alone of the whole world is able to bring forth. We need only exert our powers of observation a little, or hearken perhaps to the opinion of a foreigner, to feel how much there is that is national, local, and individual in Andersen’s nursery stories. I was once talking with a young Frenchman about Denmark. “I am very well acquainted with your country,” said he. “I know that your king is named Christian, that your greatest author is an unrecognized genius whose name is Hr. Schmidt, that Hr. Ploug is your fatherland’s most valiant warrior, whom no battle-field ever saw retreat, and that Hr. Bille is the Gambetta of Denmark. I know that you have a body of learned men who are distinguished for their scientific independence and free investigations, and I know Hr. Holst, whom you call the ‘Tyrtäus of Danebrog.'” Seeing that he had oriented himself pretty well, I interrupted him with the question, “Have you read Andersen’s nursery stories?” “Have I read them?” cried he, in reply. “Why, I have read no other Danish book.” “What do you think of them?” asked I. “Un peu trop enfantin,” was the answer, and I am convinced that if Andersen’s nursery stories were submitted to a French child five years old, he, too, would find them “un peu trop enfantin.”

I have stated that the childlike element in Andersen is universally intelligible. This is true, but it is not the whole truth. This childlike tone has a decidedly Teutonic impress; it is best understood in England and in Germany, less well in any of the Latin nations, least of all by the French. In fact, Andersen is very little known and read in France. England is the only land in which romances and semi-romances are devoted to the portrayal of the spiritual life of little children (Dickens’s “Paul Domby” and “David Copperfield,” Miss Wetherell’s “The Wide, Wide World,” George Eliot’s “The Mill on the Floss”), and English child nature is unique of its kind. It is only needful to open the first illustrated French book for children that comes to hand to observe the difference. The English child and the French child are as dissimilar as the acorn and the beechnut. Moreover, Andersen could never gain firm foothold in France for the reason that the field is already occupied, having been taken possession of long since by La Fontaine.

There are two kinds of naïveté. One is that of the heart, the other that of the understanding; the former is frank, free, simple, and touching, the latter has a distorted appearance, is jocose, full of ready wit, and subtile. The one evokes tears, the other a smile; the former has its beauty, the latter its charm; the former characterizes the good child, the latter the enfant terrible; and Andersen is the poet of the former, La Fontaine of the latter naïveté. The latter form of naïveté is that expression of precocity which utters the appropriate word without exactly knowing what it says, and which has, therefore, the appearance of a cloak; the other naïveté is that of innocence which takes it for granted that its Garden of Eden is the whole world, and consequently puts the whole world to shame without being aware that it is doing so, and at the same time with so appropriate a choice of words that it assumes the appearance of a mask. If we compare Andersen’s nursery stories with the fables of La Fontaine, we shall find a fundamental difference in the contemplation of life exhibited and thus become acquainted with the limits of the Northern mode of viewing life, for every attempt at definition is in itself a limitation.

One of the most marked traits in La Fontaine’s and the Gallic mode of contemplating life is the war against illusion. The humorous play in La Fontaine’s naïveté is dependent on the fact that, harmless as this naïveté is, good-natured and gentle as it always shows itself to be, it now and then gives undoubted evidence that it is not altogether foolish, that it will not allow itself to be duped, that it knows very well how to estimate and value all the stupidity and hypocrisy, all the preaching and all the empty phrases with which humanity permits itself, as by common consent, to be led by the nose or by the heart. With a smile it passes by all the earnestness at whose core is corruption and hollowness, all the greatness which at bottom is but audacity, all the respectability whose essence is a lie. Thus it puts “Everything in its Right Place,” which is the title of one of Andersen’s most popular tales. The key-note of its earnestness is poetic enthusiasm, and its keen wit has a sting which is carefully concealed. French satire is a rapier with a provisional button. In “Tartuffe,” “Candide,” and “Figaro,” it effected a revolution before the revolution. Laughter is the oldest Marseillaise of France.

The most marked trait in Andersen’s mode of viewing life, is that which gives the ascendency to the heart, and this trait is genuinely Danish. Full of feeling itself, this method of contemplation takes every opportunity to exalt the beauty and significance of the emotions. It overleaps the will (the whole destiny of the Flax, in the story of its life, comes from without), does combat with the critique of the pure reason as with something pernicious, the work of the Devil, the witch’s mirror, replaces pedantic science with the most admirable and witty side-thrusts (“The Bell,” “A Leaf From the Sky”), describes the senses as a tempter, or passes them over as unmentionable things, pursues and denounces hardheartedness, glorifies and commends goodness of heart, violently dethrones coarseness and narrowness, exalts innocence and decorum, and thus “puts everything in its right place.” The key-note of its earnestness is the ethic-religious feeling coupled with the hatred felt by geniality for narrowness, and its humorous satire is capricious, calm, in thorough harmony with the idyllic spirit of the poet. Its satire has only the sting of a gnat, but it stings in the tenderest places. Which of the modes of contemplation is the best? Such a question is not worthy of an answer. I love the beech, but I love the birch as well. Only because they please me, not in view of casting the balance in favor of either of these modes, I quote the following lines of George Herwegh:—

“My eyes with tears have often been bedewed,
When hearts I’ve seen all bruised and maltreated,
By hounds of understanding, too, pursued.

“Within the breast one little word is seated,
Yet wisely is its utterance subdued,
For hearts that beat too high will be defeated.”

As different as these modes of contemplating life are the poetic endowments of the two authors. La Fontaine writes clear, elegant, highly melodious verse, whose poetry is a light enthusiasm and a gentle melancholy. Andersen writes a grotesque, irregular prose, full of harmless mannerisms, and whose poetry is a luxuriant, gushing, rapturous conceit. It is this fantastic element which makes Andersen so foreign to the French people whose rather gray poetry wholly lacks the bright-hued floral splendor found among the Northern people and attaining its highest beauty in Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a splendor which may be detected throughout Andersen’s nursery stories, and which imparts to them their finest perfume. And as the fantastic caprice of this element is Norse-Danish, its idyllic key-note is purely Danish. No wonder that the earliest and most original of these nursery stories were written during the reign of Friedrich VI. and bear the stamp of his day. We recognize this monarch in all the fatherly, patriarchal old kings represented in them; we find the spirit of the age in the complete lack of social, to say nothing of political satire, that we detect in them. No wonder, too, that Thorwaldsen could never weary of hearing these stories read aloud as he counted his numbers in the game of Lotto, for his Danish temperament was naïve, and his art, with all its greatness, was as idyllic as the art which produced these poetic creations.

A genius, born in an age whose every influence opposes his development, is either hopelessly crushed or goes to ruin like any inferior talent. An Andersen born in Denmark in 1705, instead of 1805, would have been a most unfortunate and thoroughly insignificant individual, perhaps even a maniac. A genius born at a period when everything unites to come to its aid, produces classic, genial creations. Now, this first harmony between a poet and his era (in a measure also, his country) corresponds to a second one between the individual faculties of genius, and to a third one between genius and its peculiar type of art. The nature of genius is an organically connected whole; its weakness in one direction is the condition of its strength in another; the development of this faculty causes that one to be checked in its growth, and it is impossible to alter any single particular without disturbing the entire machinery. We may wish that one quality or another was different than it is, but we can readily comprehend that any decided change is out of the question. We may wish our poet had stronger personality, a more manly temperament, and more mental equilibrium; but we have no difficulty in understanding that the lack of defined personality, and the incompleteness of the character whose acquaintance we make in “The Story of my Life,” stand in the most intimate relationship with the nature of his endowments. A less receptive mind would not be so susceptible to poetic impressions, a harder one would not unite so much flexibility with its more rigid attitude, one more susceptible to criticism and philosophy would not be so naïve.

Since, then, the moral attributes are requisite to the intellectual, so, too, they are mutually contingent one upon the other. An overflowing lyric sentiment, an exalted sensibility, cannot exist with the experience and method of a man of the world, for experience chills and hardens. A lightly vaulting fancy that hops and soars like a bird, does not admit of being united with the logically measured crescendo and decrescendo of dramatic action. An observation by no means inclined to be cold-blooded cannot possibly penetrate psychologically to the heart of things; a childlike, easily quivering hand cannot dissect a villain. If, therefore, we place genius of this kind face to face with sundry defined and well-known types of art, we can determine beforehand precisely what its relations with each of them will be.

The romance is a species of poetic creation which demands of the mind that would accomplish anything remarkable in it, not only imagination and sentiment, but the keen understanding, and the cool, calm power of observation of the man of the world; that is the reason why it is not altogether suited to Andersen, although it is not wholly remote from his talent. In the entire scenery, the background of nature, the picturesque effect of the costumes, he is successful; but where psychological insight is concerned, traces of his weakness may be detected. He will take part for and against his characters; his men are not manly enough, his women not sufficiently feminine. I know no poet whose mind is more devoid of sexual distinctions, whose talent is less of a nature to betray a defined sex, than Andersen’s. Therefore his strength lies in portraying children, in whom the conscious sense of sex is not yet prominent. The whole secret lies in the fact that he is exclusively what he is,—not a man of learning, not a thinker, not a standard-bearer, not a champion, as many of our great writers have been, but simply a poet. A poet is a man who is at the same time a woman. Andersen sees most forcibly in man and in woman that which is elementary, that which is common to humanity, rather than that which is peculiar and interesting. I have not forgotten how well he has described the deep feeling of a mother in “The Story of a Mother,” or how tenderly he has told the story of the spiritual life of a woman in “The Little Sea-Maid.” I simply recognize the fact that what he has represented is not the complicated spiritual conditions of life and of romance, but the element of life; he rings changes on single, pure tones, which amid the confused harmonies and disharmonies of life, appear neither so pure nor so distinct as in his books. Upon entering into the service of the nursery story all sentiments undergo a process of simplification, purification, and transformation. The character of man is farthest removed from the comprehension of the poet of childhood, and I can only recall a single passage in his stories in which a delicate psychological characteristic of a feminine soul may be encountered, even this appears so innocently that we feel inclined to ask if it did not write itself. It occurs in the story of the new porcelain figures, “The Shepherdess and the Chimney-Sweep.”

“‘Have you really courage to go forth with me into the wide world?’ asked the chimney-sweep, tenderly. ‘Have you considered how large it is, and that we can never come back here again?’ ‘I have,’ said she. And the chimney-sweep gazed fixedly upon her, and then he said: ‘My way lies up the chimney. Have you really courage to go with me through the stove, and to creep through all the flues?’ … And he led her towards the door of the stove. ‘It looks quite black,’ said she, but still she went with him and on through all the intricacies of the interior, and through the flues, where a pitchy darkness reigned.” After long, long troublesome ascent they reached the top of the chimney and seated themselves on its edge. “The heaven and all its stars were above them, and all the roofs of the town below them; they could see far around, far away into the world. The poor shepherdess had never pictured it to herself thus; she leaned her little head on her sweep, and wept so bitterly that all the gilding of her girdle came off. ‘O this is too much!’ said she; ‘I cannot bear it. This world is too large. O were I but again on the little table under the looking-glass! I shall never be happy till I am there again. I have followed you into the wide world; now, if you really love me, you may follow me home again.'”

A more profound, more mercilessly true, more self-evident analysis of a certain kind of feminine enthusiasm and its energy when it undertakes to act boldly without regard to consequences, and without looking backwards, can be found, I think, in the works of no other Danish writer. What delicacy of presentation: the momentary resolute enthusiasm, the heroic conquering of the first horror, the endurance, bravery, firmness, until the moment which requires courage, when the firmness is shattered, and the yearning for the little table under the looking-glass is awakened. Many a voluminous romance would have been exalted by such a page, and we find in it a compensation for the fact that Andersen is no master in the province of the romance. The drama is a species of poetic production that requires the faculty for differentiating an idea and distributing it among many characters; it requires an understanding of conscious action, a logic power to guide this, an eye to the situation, a passion for becoming absorbed and overwhelmed in the inexhaustible study of individual, many-sided characters. Therefore it is that the drama is still farther removed from the genius of Andersen than the romance, and that his lack of capacity for the dramatic style increases with mathematical exactness in the same ratio as each variety of dramatic art is removed from the nursery story, and consequently from his gifts. He naturally succeeds best with the nursery-story comedy; although, to be sure, it possesses little more of comedy than the name. It is a mixed species, and if it were put to the test of the Spanish story, it would be recognized as a bastard. In the comedy of special situations he is happy with respect to the poetic execution of single scenes (“The King’s Dream”), but singularly unfortunate in the execution of the idea as a whole (“The Pearl of Good Fortune”). The comedy proper is not poorly suited to his gifts. Certain of his nursery stories are, indeed, veritable Holberg comedies; “The Happy Family” is a Holberg character-comedy, and “It is Quite True” possesses a decided Holberg plot. In stories of this kind character delineation comes easier to him than in the grave drama, for in them he walks directly in the footsteps of Holberg, so strikingly does his talent accord in a single direction with that of this early Northern dramatist. Andersen is, as I have already remarked, no direct psychologist; he is rather a biologist than an especially well-informed student of human nature. His predilection is for describing man through animals or plants, and seeing him develop from the rudiments of his nature. All art contains an answer to the question, What is man? Inquire of Andersen how he defines man, and he will reply, Man is a swan hatched in the “duck-yard” of Nature.

To a person who takes an interest in psychological investigations, who, without being able to grasp a complex character, possesses a refined development of observation for single qualities, for characteristic peculiarities, animals, especially those with which we are familiar, afford great relief. We are usually accustomed to credit each animal with an individual attribute, or at all events, with a limited group of attributes. The snail is slow, the nightingale is the unpretending singer with the glorious voice, the butterfly is the fair inconstant one. There is nothing then to prevent the poet who possesses the gifts needed to represent these striking little traits, from following in the footsteps of Holberg, the man who wrote “Den Vægelsindede” (The Fickle One), as Andersen did in “The New Lying-In Room.” He betrays here, moreover, one of his many points of similarity with Dickens, whose comic characterizations are frequently limited to a few traits repeated ad infinitum.

In the epopee, which belongs in our day to the impossible forms of poetry and which demands all the qualities that Andersen lacks, he can merely find play for certain petty fancies, as for instance, when he characterizes the spirit of China, in his “Ahasuerus,” in a droll lyric episode, or when he permits the twittering swallows (exactly as in a nursery story) to describe the festal hall of Attila.

In his descriptions of travel very naturally a large number of his best qualities come to light. Like his favorite, the migratory bird, he is in his element when he travels. He observes with the eye of a painter, and he describes like an enthusiast. Yet even here two faults are apparent: one is that his lyric tendency at times runs away with him, so that he chants a hymn of praise instead of giving a description, or exaggerates instead of painting (see, for instance, the gushing and untrue description of Ragatz and Pfäffers); the other, that the underlying, personal, egotistical element of his nature, giving evidence that his innermost personality lacks reserve, occasionally obtrudes itself in a most disturbing manner.

The latter tendency characterizes with especially marked force the style of his autobiography. The criticism that can with justice be made on his “Story of My Life” is not so much that the author is throughout occupied with his own private affairs (for that is quite natural in such a work); it is that his personality is scarcely ever occupied with anything greater than itself, is never absorbed in an idea, is never entirely free from the ego. The revolution of 1848 in this book affects us as though we heard some one sneeze; we are astonished to be reminded by the sound that there is a world outside of the author.

In lyric poetry Andersen has met with foreign success—even Chamisso has translated some of his songs; yet I am always loath to see him lay aside his bright colored, realistic prose dress, that is so true to nature, in order to veil himself in the more uniform mantle of verse. His prose has fancy, unrestrained sentiment, rhythm, and melody. Why, then, cross the brook to find water? His poems, too, are frequently distinguished by a peaceful and childlike spirit, a warm and gentle sentiment. We see that the result of his attempts in the different regions of poetry proceeds quite directly, like the unknown x in mathematics, from the nature of his talents on one side, and the nature of the kind of poetic creation he has chosen on the other.

Thus the nursery story remains his sole individual creation, and for it he requires no patent, since no one is likely to rob him of it. In Andersen’s day it was a common thing to attempt to classify all kinds of poetic creations with their varieties in an æsthetic system, according to the method of Hegel; and Hegel’s Danish disciple, Heiberg, projected a complicated system in which the rank of the comedy, the tragedy, the romance, the nursery story, etc., was definitely fixed, while to Heiberg’s own art-form an especially high rank was accorded. It is, however, in a certain measure pedantic to speak of general classes of art. Every creative artist thoroughly individualizes his own species of art. The form which he has used, no other has it in his power to use. So it is with the nursery story, whose theory Andersen made no attempt to describe, whose place in the system there has been no effort to establish, and which I, for one, should take good care not to define. There is, indeed, something very curious about æsthetic systematic classification; it impresses one very much in the same way as division of rank in the State: the more one broods over it, the more heretical one becomes. Perhaps this arises from the fact that to think is in the main synonymous with becoming a heretic. Yet like every natural type, Andersen’s nursery story has its individual character, and his theories are comprised in the laws it obeys, whose boundaries it may not overstep without bringing to light a monster. Everything in the world has its law, even that species of poetry which transcends the laws of nature.

Andersen somewhere remarks, that he has made attempts in pretty much every radiation of the nursery story. This remark is striking and good. His nursery stories form a complete whole, a web with manifold radiations, that seems to address the beholder in the words of the spider’s web in “Aladdin,” “See how the threads can become entwined in the delicate net!” If it will not seem too much like bringing the dust of the schoolroom into the parlor, I should like to call the reader’s attention to a celebrated scientific work in Adolf Zeising’s “Æsthetic Investigations,” in which can be found a complete series of æsthetic contrasts, in all their different phases (the beautiful, the comic, the tragic, the humorous, the touching, etc.), arranged in one great star, just as Andersen has planned in respect to his nursery stories.

The form of fancy and the method of narration in the nursery story admit the treatment of the most heterogeneous materials in the most varied tones. Within its province may be found sublime narratives, as “The Bell”; profound and wise stories, as “The Shadow”; fantastically bizarre, as “The Elfin Mound”; merry, almost wanton ones, as “The Swineherd,” or “The Leap Frog “; humorous ones, as “The Princess on the Pea,” “Good Humor,” “The False Collar,” “The Lovers”; also stories with a tinge of melancholy, as “The Constant Tin Soldier”; deeply pathetic poetic creations, as “The Story of a Mother”; oppressively dismal, as “The Red Shoes”; touching fancies, as “The Little Sea-Maid”; and those of mingled dignity and playfulness, as “The Snow Queen.” Here we encounter an anecdote like “A Great Sorrow,” which resembles a smile through tears, and an inspiration like “The Muse of the Coming Age,” in which we feel the pinion strokes of history, the heart-throbs and pulse-beats of the active, stirring life of the present, as violent as in a fever, and yet as healthy as in a happy moment of enthusiastic inspiration. In short, we find everything that lies between the epigram and the hymn.

Is there, then, a boundary line which limits the nursery story, a law which binds it? If so, where does it lie? The law of the nursery story lies in the nature of the nursery story, and its nature is dependent on that of poetry. If, at the first moment, it would seem that nothing is prohibited a species of poetic creation which can permit a princess to feel a pea through twenty mattresses and twenty eider-down beds, it is but a semblance. The nursery story, which unites unbridled freedom of invention with the restraint its central idea impresses upon it, must steer between two rocks: between the luxuriance of style that lacks ideas, and dry allegory; it must strike the medium course between too great fulness and too great meagreness. This, Andersen most frequently succeeds in doing, and yet not always. Those of his stories that are based on materials derived from folk-lore, as “The Flying Trunk,” or those that may be classed with the fairy-tale proper, as “Thumbling,” do not attract grown people as they do children, because the story in such instances conceals no thought. In his “Garden of Paradise” everything preceding the entrance to the garden is masterly, but the Fairy of Paradise herself seems to me to be invested with little, if any, beauty or charm. The opposite extreme is when we see the barren intention, the dry precept, through the web of poetic creation; this fault, as might be expected in our reflecting and conscious age, is one of more frequent occurrence. We feel it keenly because the nursery story is the realm of the unconscious. Not only are unconscious beings and objects the leaders of speech in it, but what triumphs and is glorified in the nursery story is this very element of unconsciousness. And the nursery story is right; for the unconscious element is our capital and the source of our strength. The reason why the travelling companion could receive aid from the dead man, was because he had entirely forgotten that he had formerly helped this same dead man, and even simple Hans gains the princess and half the kingdom, because with all his folly he is so exceedingly naïve. Even stupidity has its genial side and its good luck; with the poor intermediate beings, the Nureddin natures alone, the nursery story knows not what to do.

Let us consider some instances of sins against the unconscious. In the beautiful story of “The Snow Queen” a most disturbing influence is exercised by the scene where the Snow Queen requests little Kay to make figures with the ice puzzle for the understanding, and he is unable to represent the word “Eternity.” There is also clumsy and un-poetic bluntness in “The Neighboring Families” whenever the sparrow’s family mention the rose by the abstract, and for a sparrow rather unnatural, term, “the beautiful.” It would have been understood, without this hint, that the roses were the representatives of the beautiful in the narrative, and in encountering this abstract word in the nursery story we recoil as though we had come into contact with a slimy frog.

This tendency to allegory in narratives for children appears most frequently, as might be expected, in the form of instruction and moralizing; in some of the nursery stories, as in “The Buckwheat,” the pedagogic element plays an exaggerated rôle. In others, as “The Flax,” we feel too strongly at the conclusion—as in Jean Paul—the tendency to exhibit, in season and out of season, the doctrine of immortality. Toward the end of the latter story a few little, somewhat “insipid beings” are created who announce that the song is never done. In some cases finally the tendency is more personal. A whole series of stories (“The Duckling,” “The Nightingale,” “The Neighboring Families,” “The Daisy,” “The Snail and The Rose-Tree,” “Pen and Inkstand,” “The Old Street Lamp”) allude to the poet’s life and the poet’s lot, and in single cases we see traces—a rare exception with Andersen—of invention being dragged in forcibly in order to bring out the tendency. What sense and what conformity to nature is there, for instance, in the fact that the street lamp can only let others see the beautiful and symbolic sights that had been interwoven with its experience when it is provided with a wax candle, and that its faculties are useless when provided with an ordinary light? It is quite incomprehensible until we conceive it to be an allegory on a poet’s supposed need of prosperity in order to accomplish anything. “And so genius must run after cupboard lore!” wrote Kierkegaard on the occasion of the appearance of “Only a Fiddler.” Still more infelicitous is the scene where the street lamp, in its melted-down condition, in its other life, finds its way to a poet and thus fulfils its destiny. So strongly as this the tendency has rarely shown itself.

The first duty of the nursery story is to be poetic, its second to preserve the marvellous element. Therefore, it is first of all necessary that the order of the legendary world be sacred to it. What in the language of legendary lore is regarded as a fixed rule, must be respected by the nursery story, however unimportant it may be in relation to the laws and rules of the real world. Thus it is quite inappropriate for the nursery story, as in Andersen’s “The Dryad,” to part its heroine from her tree, to let her make a symbolic journey to Paris, to go to the “bal Mabille,” etc., for it is not more impossible for all the kings of the earth to place the smallest leaf on a nettle than it is for legendary lore to tear a dryad away from its tree. But in the second place, it lies in the nature of the nursery story form that its outline can frame nothing that, in order to obtain its poetic rights, requires a profound psychological description, an earnest development, such as would be adapted either to the nature of the drama or the romance. A woman like Marie Grubbe, a sketch of whose interesting life Andersen gives us in the story of “Chicken-Grethe,” is too much of a character for it to be possible for the author of the nursery story to describe or interpret; when he attempts to do so, we feel a disproportion between the object and the form. There is less occasion, however, to marvel at these few blemishes than at the fact that they so very rarely occur. I have only called attention to them because it is interesting to become acquainted with the boundary lines by observing how they have been overstepped, and because it seemed to me more important to ascertain how the Pegasus of the nursery story, notwithstanding all its freedom to race and fly through the circle, has its firm tether in the centre.

Its beauty, its strength, its power of flight, and its grace, we do not see by observing its limits, but by following its many and bold movements within its circle. Upon this fact we will in conclusion cast a glance. The nursery story field lies before us like a large, rich flowery plain. Let us freely stroll about this, let us cross it in all directions, now plucking a flower here, now there, rejoicing in its coloring, its beauty, its tout-ensemble. These brief little poetic creations stand in the same relation to the poetry of greater compass as little flowers to the trees of the forest. Whoever on a beautiful day in spring takes a walk in a forest by the seaside in order to view the beeches in their youthful splendor, with their brown velvety buds encased in light green silk, and after gazing aloft for awhile bends his eyes downward to the earth, will find that the carpet of the forest is as beautiful as its ceiling of tree-tops. Here grow in lowly state many colored anemones, white and dark red mayflowers, yellow stars of Bethlehem, and saxifrage, starwort, buttercups and dandelions. Near together are the buds, the full-blown flowers, and those which already bear seed, the virgin and the fecundated plants, the flowers without fragrance and those with pleasant perfume, the poisonous, and the useful, the healing weed. Frequently the plant which takes the humblest place in the system, as the flowerless fern, is the most beautiful to the eye. Flowers which seem to be complex prove on closer scrutiny to consist of very few leaves, and plants whose bloom seems to be one flower, bear on their top a wealth of blossoms only united by the stalk. So, too, it is with the nursery stories. Those which in respect to their worth seem the most insignificant, as “The Leap-Frog,” often contain a whole life philosophy in a nutshell, and those which appear to be a single whole, as “The Galoshes of Fortune,” are often composed of a loosely united cluster of blossoms. Some are in the bud, as “The Drop of Water”; others are about bursting the seed, as “The Jewish Girl,” or “The Stone of the Wise Men.” Some consist of but a single point, as “The Princess on the Pea”; others have grand, noble form, as “The Story of a Mother,” a tale that is a special favorite in India, and that resembles that tropical flower, the calla, which in its sublime simplicity consists of but a single leaf.

I open the book at random, and my eye falls on “The Elfin Mound.” What life and what humor! “In the kitchen there was a great quantity of frogs among the dishes; adders’ skins, with little children’s fingers inside; salad of mushroom-seed; wet mice’s snouts and hemlock,… rusty nails and church-window glass were among the delicacies and kickshaws.” Does any one think that the children are forgotten here? By no means. “The old Elfin King had his golden crown polished with powdered slate-pencil. It was the pencil of the head scholar; and to obtain this one is very difficult for the Elfin King.” Does any one think there is nothing here for grown people? A still greater mistake! “O how I long to see the old Northern Elf! His sons, people say, are coarse, blustering fellows….” They “went with open throats, for they disdained the cold.” What a banquet! The skeleton horse is among the invited guests. Does any one think that Andersen would forget the character of the guests at a festal gathering? “The Elfin maidens were now to dance, simple as well as stamping dances…. Confound it! their legs grew so long, one did not know which was the beginning nor which was the end, one could not distinguish legs from arms; all was twirling about in the air like sawdust; and they went whizzing round to such a degree that the Skeleton Horse grew quite sick, and was obliged to leave the table.” Andersen is acquainted with the nervous system of the skeleton horse, and is mindful of his weak stomach.

He has the genuine gift for creating supernatural beings, in modern times so rare. How deeply symbolical and how natural it is, for instance, that the little sea-maid, when her fish-tail shrivelled up and became “the prettiest pair of white feet a little girl could have,” should feel as though she were treading on pointed needles and sharp knives at every step she took! How many poor women tread on sharp knives at every step they take, in order to be near him whom they love, and are yet far from being the most unhappy of women!

What a splendidly drawn band is that multitude of sprites in “The Snow Queen,” what a superb symbol the witches’ mirror, and how thoroughly the author has comprehended this queen herself, who, sitting in the midst of the desert snow field, had imbibed all its cold beauty! This woman is to a certain degree related to Night, one of Andersen’s peculiarly characteristic creations. It is not Thorwaldsen’s mild, sleep-bringing night, not Carstens’ venerable, motherly night; it is black, gloomy, sleepless, and awful night. “Out in the snow sat a woman in long black garments, and she said, ‘Death has been with you in your room; I saw him hasten away with your child; he strides faster than the wind, and never brings back what he has taken away.’ ‘Only tell me which way he has gone,’ said the mother. ‘Tell me the way, and I will find him.’ ‘I know him,’ said the woman in the black garments; ‘but before I tell you, you must sing me all the songs that you have sung to your child. I love those songs; I have heard them before. I am Night, and I saw your tears when you sang them.’ ‘I will sing them all, all!’ said the mother. ‘But do not detain me, that I may overtake him, and find my child.’ But Night sat dumb and still. Then the mother wrung her hands, and sang, and wept. And there were many songs, but yet more tears.” Then the mother journeys onward, weeps out her eyes in order that for this price she may be borne to the opposite shore, and in the great hot-house of Death gives her long black hair to an old gray-haired woman in exchange for the old woman’s white hair.

We meet with a countless multitude of fanciful creations, little elf-like divinities, such as Ole Shut-Eye (the sandman), or the goblins with the red caps, and the northern dryad, the Elder-Tree Mother. We feel Andersen’s strength when we compare it with the weakness of the contemporary Danish poets in this respect. What pale forms are not Heilberg’s Pomona, Astræa, or Fata Morgana! Andersen invests even a shadow with a body. What says the shadow? What does it say to its master? “I, as you know well, have from a child followed in your footsteps.” This is true. “We have grown up together from childhood.” This is not less true, and when after his call he takes his leave, he says, “Farewell! here is my card; I live on the sunny side of the street, and am always at home in rainy weather.” Andersen is familiar with the shadow’s pangs of yearning, its customs, and its delights. “I ran about the streets in the moonlight; I made myself long up the walls—it tickles the back so delightfully!” The story of the shadow, which by no means reminds us of Chamisso, is a little world in itself. I do not hesitate to pronounce it one of the greatest master novels in Danish literature. It is the epopee of all shadows, of all people who are feeble imitations, of all those characters that lack originality and individuality, all those who imagine that through mere emancipation from their prototypes they can attain independence, personality, and true, genuine, human existence. It is also one of the few stories in which the poet, in spite of his tender-hearted optimism, has ventured to allow a hideous truth to stand forth in its entire nakedness. The shadow resolves, in order to insure himself against all revelations concerning his past, to take the man’s life. “‘Poor Shadow!’ (that is the man) said the Princess; ‘he is very unfortunate; it would be a real work of charity to deliver him from the little life he has; and when I think properly over the matter, I am of opinion that it will be necessary to do away with him in all stillness!’ ‘It is certainly hard!’ said the Shadow, ‘for he was a faithful servant!’ and then he gave a sort of a sigh. ‘You are a noble character!’ said the Princess.” This story is one of those in which the transition from the natural to the supernatural can most readily be observed. The shadow worked its way up “so as to become its own master,” until it seems quite natural that it should at last make itself free.

We close the book, and open it again at another place. Here we meet with “The Leap-Frog.” A brief and comprehensive treatise on life. The main characters are a Flea, a Grasshopper and a Leap-Frog, made of the breast-bone of a goose; the king’s daughter is the prize for the highest jumper. “Pay heed, all of you,” says the muse of the nursery story. “Spring with understanding. It is of no use to jump so high that no one can see you; for then the rabble will insist that it would have been as well not to have jumped at all. Only look at all the greatest minds, thinkers, poets, and men of science. For the multitude it is the same as though they had not jumped at all; they reap no harvest of reward, a body is needed for that. Neither is it of any use to spring high and well, for those who spring right into the face of the Powers that be. In this way, forsooth, a person would never make a career. No; take the Leap-Frog for a model. He is almost apoplectic; first of all he has the appearance of one that cannot jump at all, and many motions he certainly cannot make either; nevertheless, he makes—with the instinct of stupidity, with the dexterity of indolence—a little side-jump, into the lap of the princess. Take example from this; he has shown that he has understanding.” What a pearl of a nursery story! and what a faculty for making psychological use of animals! It cannot be denied that the reader is at times inclined to cherish a doubt as to what this fancy of permitting animals to speak can signify. It is one thing whether we readers feel that it strikes home to us, and then whether the character of the animal is really hit, the animal that has not one human quality. Meanwhile, we can readily comprehend that it is impossible to speak of animals, even in a purely scientific way, without attributing to them qualities with which we are familiar through our own nature. How, for instance, could we avoid painting the wolf as cruel? Andersen’s skill only consists in producing a poetic, a striking seeming conformity between the animal and its human attributes. How true it is when the cat says to little Rudy: “Come out upon the roof with me, little Rudy. It is all nonsense to fancy one must fall down; you won’t fall unless you are afraid; come, set one of your paws here, the other there, and take care of yourself with the rest of your paws! Keep a sharp lookout, and be active in your limbs. If there be a hole, spring over it, and keep a firm footing as I do.” How natural it is when the old snail says: “You need not be in a hurry—but you always hurry so, and the little one is beginning just the same way. Has he not been creeping up that stalk these three days? My head quite aches when I look up at him.” What finer description of a lying-in room than the story of the hatching of the young duckling? What more probable than that the sparrows, when they want to abuse their neighbors, should call them “those thick-headed roses.”

One story I have reserved until the end; I will now search for it, for it is, as it were, the crown of Andersen’s work. It is the story of “The Bell,” in which the poet of naïveté and nature has reached the pinnacle of his poetic muse. We have seen his talent for describing in a natural way that which is superhuman, and that which is below the human. In this story he stands face to face with nature herself. It treats of the invisible bell which the children, who had just been confirmed, went out into the wood to seek—young people in whose breasts yearning for the invisible, alluring, and wondrous voices of nature was still fresh. The king of the country had “vowed that he who could discover whence the sounds proceeded should have the title of ‘Universal Bell-ringer,’ even if it were not really a bell. Many persons now went to the wood, for the sake of getting the place, but one only returned with a sort of explanation; for nobody went far enough; that one not farther than the others. However, he said that the sound proceeded from a very large owl, in a hollow tree; a sort of learned owl, that continually knocked its head against the branches…. So now he got the place of ‘Universal Bell-ringer,’ and wrote yearly a short treatise ‘on the Owl’; but everybody was just as wise as before.” The children who had been confirmed go out this year also, and “they hold each other by the hand; for, as yet, they had none of them any high office.” But soon they begin to grow weary, one by one, and some of them return to town, one for one reason, another for another pretext. An entire class of them linger by a small bell in an idyllic little house, without considering, as the few constant ones, that so small a bell could not possibly cause so enticing a play of tones, but that it must give “very different tones from those that could move a human breast in such a manner”; and with their small hope, their small yearning, they betake themselves to rest near their small discovery, the small bell, the small idyllic joy. I fancy the reader must have met some of these children after they were grown up. Finally but two remain, a king’s son and a poor little boy in wooden shoes, and “with so short a jacket that one could see what long wrists he had.” On the way they parted; for one wished to seek the bell on the right, the other on the left. The king’s son sought the bell in the road that lay “on the side where the heart is placed”; the poor boy sought it in the opposite direction. We follow the king’s son, and we read admiringly of the mystic splendor with which the poet has invested the region, in altering and exchanging the natural coloring of the flowers. “But on he went, without being disheartened, deeper and deeper into the wood, where the most wonderful flowers were growing. There stood white lilies with blood-red stamens; sky-blue tulips, which shone as they moved in the winds; and the apple-trees, the apples of which looked exactly like large soap-bubbles: so only think how the trees must have sparkled in the sunshine!” The sun goes down; the king’s son begins to fear that he will be surprised by night; he climbs upon a rock in order to see the sun once more before it disappears in the horizon. Listen to the poet’s song of praise:—

“And he seized hold of the creeping-plants, and the roots of trees,—climbed up the moist stones where the water-snakes were writhing, and the toads were croaking,—and he gained the summit before the sun had quite gone down. How magnificent was the night from this height! The sea the great, the glorious sea, that dashed its long waves against the coast—was stretched out before him. And yonder, where sea and sky meet, stood the sun, like a large, shining altar, all melted together in the most glowing colors. And the wood and the sea sang a song of rejoicing, and his heart sang with the rest: all nature was a vast, holy church, in which the trees and buoyant clouds were the pillars; flowers and grass the velvet carpeting; and heaven itself the large cupola. The red colors above faded away as the sun vanished, but a million stars were lighted, a million diamond lamps shone; and the king’s son spread out his arms toward heaven, and wood, and sea; when at the same moment, coming by a path to the right, appeared, in his wooden shoes and short-sleeved jacket, the poor boy who had been confirmed with him. He had followed his own path, and had reached the spot just as soon as the son of the king had done. They ran toward each other, and stood together, hand in hand, in the vast church of nature and of poetry, while over them sounded the invisible, holy bell; blessed spirits floated around them, and lifted up their voices in a rejoicing hallelujah.”

Genius is the wealthy king’s son, its attentive follower the poor boy; but art and science, although they may have parted on their way, meet in their enthusiasm, and their devotion to the divine, universal soul of nature.

Frederik Paludan Mueller 02.jpg


From Germans who were conversant with the Danish language, I have frequently heard the remark, “Paludan-Müller, not Oehlenschläger, is the greatest poet Denmark has produced in this century. How strange this has never been recognized!”

It has never been recognized because it is not the case. Intellectual superiority has here been confounded with poetic, or personal maturity preferred to the originality of genius. In Meyer’s “Konversations-Lexikon” we read: “Paludan-Müller is unconditionally the most important Danish author of our century, quite as much owing to his wealth of ideas, as to the depth of his moral earnestness and the beauty of form displayed in his diction.” Questionable as the justice of this assertion appears to me, it is equally unquestionable that Paludan-Müller (born Feb. 7, 1809, died Dec. 28, 1876) is far more calculated to interest the foreign reader than any other modern Danish author, and his deep, inquiring mind is especially in harmony with the German mind.


I need only close my eyes to see him before me as he appeared in life. I behold the cheerful smile with which he said “Good day” to a guest. I hear the roguish playfulness with which in lively conversation, almost in the style of Shakespeare’s Mercutio, he clung to a merry pun. In the last years of his life a severe illness had broken his strength, and age had set its mark on his noble form. But I can see him in the freshness and healthful appearance of his robust years, as he was when I first became acquainted with him.

One August day, in 1863, I saw and spoke with him for the first time. On a pedestrian trip with a young relative of his, I came to Fredensborg, in Zealand, and with beating heart set foot on the threshold of his summer residence. Every poem he had written was familiar to me, and I experienced a sense of disquietude, mingled with rejoicing, at the thought of being so near the man whom I had so long admired in the distance. We waited a while in the rustic, modest room; I had just time to cast a glance at the unpretending household furniture, when the door of the adjoining room opened, and he whom we sought appeared, bidding us welcome in his singularly refined and impressive voice. An aristocratic face met my gaze, with features that might have been chiseled by an idealistic sculptor. The sensitive, quivering nostrils, and the deep, strong, handsome blue eyes, shaded by vigorous eyebrows, gave life to the face; a slight deafness, too, imparted to it a listening, attentive look. On his head Paludan-Müller wore a high, pointed cap, which was extremely becoming to him, and caused his noble face to resemble an old Florentine portrait. His finely shaped, sarcastic mouth was made doubly beautiful by the smile that hovered about it; his white necktie imparted a certain dignity to the poise of the head, and he looked equally distinguished and amiable.

After the first interchange of greetings, the conversation fell on the relation between the beautiful in nature and in art, and, zealous idealist as he was, he maintained that everything in nature must be called beautiful, or nothing. It was a sort of echo of the Hegelian doctrine of beauty as the work of man alone.

During this talk we had strolled out into the Fredensborg castle garden. Paludan-Müller sat down on the banks of Lake Esrom, and pointing with his stick to a monstrous toad, he said, “Voltaire was right when he made his toad exclaim, ‘La beau idéal c’est ma crapaude.‘”

He seemed to take a certain naïve pleasure in making use of terse, sportive sentences of this kind. There might also be detected in his conversation at times, an interesting antithesis; he would now employ certain abstract and solemn phrases that have become foreign to the younger generation; would speak, for instance, of the “worshippers of beauty,” and more to like effect; and again, he would amuse himself by clothing his thoughts in some extravagantly cynical expression. This changeful attitude of tone may be recognized in his humoristic poetry. In his discourse it produced a peculiar effect, much as when a swan interrupts its calm, royal flight, to thrust its tail upward in the air. This, however, was only the first impression; it was entirely effaced by a more intimate acquaintance with him. To those who knew him well, it was very evident that the ermine-like purity of his nature and his aversion to the uncleanness and flatness of the daily life of the period, which had made him a hermit, found their complement in the witty, sportively polemic tendency of his mind, in his scorn for much that was excessively admired by others, and in the keen sense of the comic which had made him the poet of satire.


He passed his summers in Fredensborg, and his winters in the “Ny-Adelgade” in Copenhagen, and it sometimes occurred to me that this double place of residence corresponded with the different phases of his character and his poetry. He was well adapted to his summer home. There was something in his nature that was akin to the slender, proud alleys, and the pure air and perfect order of the regularly laid out gardens. The white statues of the un-Grecian Greek gods and goddesses among the trees were reminders of his mythologic poems, and harmonized with the character of the poet who has so often surprised and portrayed Venus and Aurora at their morning toilets. With all his great and rare poetic gifts, Paludan-Müller, in his poetry, lacked naïveté; he was never, properly speaking, the poet of nature; and, therefore, a garden was much better adapted to his poetic mood than a forest. The little castle, of which the new royal family promptly took possession, was very dear to him. He was devoted to royalty, as were but few of his contemporaries; he was as loyal as a citizen of the days of Frederick VI. He was rejoiced and felt honored when he received an occasional visit from the young princesses, whose amiability and simple manners won his heart; he was put in an especially good humor one day when the Princess Dagmar sent him her portrait with a few friendly lines. Finally, the spot suited his need of living in retirement. He went to Fredensborg long before the other guests from Copenhagen, and remained there long after they had all departed; he always left the city when the calendar promised spring, and did not return until the last leaves had fallen. Thus he had an opportunity of enjoying profound solitude in his favorite retreat.

Any one who visited him during the winter in Copenhagen, found him in very different surroundings. His street was in one of the worst and most notorious quarters of the city at that time. The fact that he was not in very affluent circumstances had evidently been the cause of his settling in a place of the kind. It was a singular coincidence that the pure and rigorous author of “Kalanus” could never step to his door of a winter evening without having before his eye abundant and loud testimony of human shame and misery. Many an evening I have seen him in the streets of this vicinity, leaning on his cane, and looking neither to the right nor to the left, while numerous rude and noisy couples drifted past him. I would then remember that the author of “Kalanus” was also the author of “Adam Homo”; and were not these the accessory figures of “Adam Homo,” the original of the beautiful Lina and the swarthy Trina which the poet had before his eyes day after day? Thus it was not an altogether incongruous decree of fate that located Paludan-Müller in the midst of the most wretched and hideous vices of Copenhagen. When the threshold of his house was once crossed, however, the repulsive neighborhood was wholly forgotten. The door to the peaceful dwelling, where everything was animated by the good genius and good humor of the poet, was usually opened by a faithful old maid-servant who was thoroughly devoted to her employer, and with whose favor no guest could dispense, since, according to the playful assertion of the poet, she tyrannized over his home.


In conversation with Paludan-Müller, little was learned concerning his life. He never made any communications regarding it to the public, nor was it his wont to speak in private of his personal experiences. He was by no means a good narrator. He discussed every great problem with interest; but facts, as such, occupied his mind in but a trifling degree. His mode of speech was argumentative, not figurative; the poetic element manifested itself in brilliant flashes, but scarcely ever in a picturesque expression. In a critical, or even violently exciting situation, I have never seen Paludan-Müller. I do not even know whether his external life ever presented momentous critical situations. The external lives of the Danish writers of his day were as a rule empty. They were educated in one school of learning or another, passed several years at the University of Copenhagen in vain endeavors to acquire some professional science, published their first poetry, undertook an extended journey abroad, and had awarded to them some official position, or a poet’s stipend. To the lot of some of them was added a long and obstinate struggle for recognition. But even this dramatic element was lacking in the life of Paludan-Müller. He took part in no intellectual campaign. True, he was for a time not estimated according to his deserts, but he was never wholly misunderstood. His life seems, therefore, to have had as few sharp angles as that of most of our modern men of talent.

He was born in 1809 at a parsonage in Fünen, became a student in 1828, passed a mediocre examination in jurisprudence in 1835, married in 1838, and during the years 1838-40 travelled through Middle and Southern Europe. In 1851 he was made a knight of the order of Danebrog, and in 1854 received a professor’s title. Moreover, in his mature manhood, he was a poet and a recluse.

What he was as a youth, we must conjecture from his works. From what I have heard, I imagine him to have been greatly fêted in social circles, the decided lion of aristocratic houses of Fünen; it has been told to me that he possessed such humor and so decided a faculty for impromptu invention, that he would sometimes create on the spur of the moment an entire little drama, and play it entirely alone, running from one side of his improvised stage to the other, in order to reply to his own speeches. I remember, too, having heard that in his younger days he had experienced a deep heart-grief, a young girl whom he loved having been snatched from him by death. Very early, at all events, the chain of bitter experiences, without which he could not have written the first part of “Adam Homo” in his thirty-first year, subdued his original love of life, and when still young, he retired from the world, withdrawing entirely from public, almost entirely from social life, and devoting himself exclusively to his home, his art, and his theological and philosophic studies. His marriage was childless, so that even in his household life there was nothing to fix his gaze on the world without. The more completely he severed the cords that had bound him to his surroundings, the more self-controlled and contemplative he became. Through accidental remarks alone, through words that he dropped in the course of conversation, without dreaming what an impression they must make upon a young man, did I gain a clear idea of the nature of the results at which he had arrived in the course of his life-experience and knowledge of human nature. These results were not of an optimistic nature.

Never shall I forget the day when I carried to him a pamphlet, my first published work. “I thank you,” said he. “It will give me great pleasure to read the book. How soon do you want it back?” “I beg of you to keep it.” “You want to present the book to me. Oh, innocence! He gives his own books to people. Do you carry it to others as well? What? To your friends and near acquaintances? Well, believe me, you will not long continue such a course. This is something authors only do when they are very young.” At that time such a speech excited me to very much the same opposition as the cold, cruel irony of “Adam Homo”; later I learned to understand better the freedom from illusion and the caution from which it sprang. To-day Paludan-Müller’s reserve appears only natural to me.

The sharp suspicion he sometimes manifested was rather touching than insulting, for Paludan-Müller was not suspicious on his own account, but rather for the sake of those who enjoyed his favor. He always feared that the wicked world, especially dangerous womankind, would lure his favorites to destruction, and warnings on his part were never lacking. Among his precepts may be found some of those half-worldly, half-Christian admixtures of well-calculated egotism and conventional morality, which are so full of good sense, and yet are listened to so unwillingly by young people. One day in the year 1867, for instance, he exclaimed: “What is that you are saying? Some Italian ladies whom you visited frequently at Paris have invited you to stay at their house during the Exposition? You should not think of such a thing!” “And why not? I can assure you these ladies are not only thoroughly irreproachable in character, but are people of the highest culture.” “That makes no difference, no difference whatever, nor did I say anything to the contrary; I only remarked that it would be wiser to have nothing to do with these Italian women. Use your time and your talents for whole relations; that is what we should do. It is wisest to sow where we can ourselves reap the harvest; a young man would do better to employ his time for the benefit of his mother, his sister, his wife, in other words, in whole relations; everything else is lost time.” He said this with great earnestness, and in a peculiarly domineering way, as though he were resolved not to listen to any objections that might be offered. It made me a little angry at the time, because the innocent invitation of these foreign ladies was by no means cause sufficient for such an outburst; but when I think of it now, this mistrust only seems to me one of the spiritual conditions from which “Adam Homo” proceeded.

It was but comparatively seldom, however, that this negative side of his character came to light. I have preserved a far stronger impression of the loving and thoughtful care for others manifested by Paludan-Müller, of the princely refinement of his nature. His bearing to his wife, who was ten years older than himself, was the perfection of chivalry, and a similar chivalrous demeanor marked his intercourse with the many ladies, by no means endowed with personal attractions, who visited at his home. To the admiration and flatteries of beautiful women, he was absolutely unsusceptible. I remember one case, when an exceedingly handsome lady, who had succeeded in getting a seat next to him at a social gathering, overwhelmed him with honestly meant thanks, not unmingled with a critic’s appreciation, for “Adam Homo.” She utterly failed to win the favor of Paludan-Müller. What he said to me afterwards was, “She has, no doubt, in her not very long life, wrought a considerable amount of mischief.” On the other hand, he treated with peculiar warmth ladies who were in humble and reduced circumstances. There was in his family an old unmarried aunt, who was well advanced in the sixties, and who, although a good-hearted, excellent person, was most unattractive in personal appearance. Paludan-Müller became the self-appointed knight of this old lady; he always paid her the choicest attention, and he who scarcely ever invited any one to dine with him always celebrated her birthday each summer with a little dinner party, and each time proposed a toast for her in the most hearty words.


Frederik Paludan-Müller was the son of a refined and highly cultured Danish bishop. He inherited his father’s talents for idealistic reflection. He does not belong, like Grundtvig and Ingemann, Heiberg and Poul Möller, Hauch and Christian Winther, Aarestrup and Bödtcher, to the great Oehlenschläger group. Like Henrik Hertz, he belongs to the circle of J. L. Heiberg. Unquestionably, Heiberg was the Danish master of poetic art, to whom from the outset he looked up. He was, as he once told me himself, so captivated in his youth with the personal presence and conversation of Heiberg that sometimes the latter, in order to get clear of him when they had been together until late in the night, was forced to repeat the formula: “Now listen to me once for all, Paludan-Müller; if you do not leave immediately, I shall be obliged to order a bed for you on the floor.” He never referred to Heiberg’s poetry but with the greatest warmth. It was attractive to him because of its lucidity, its wealth of thought, and its romantic flight. He rejoiced in its satire, the related chords met with a response within his own soul, and its speculative tendencies harmonized with his own propensity to depict what was universally valid, universally human. His judgments regarding other poets were instructive so far as they afforded an insight into the nature of his own talent. He who so highly esteemed reflection in poetry, could not sympathize with Oehlenschläger. One day when the discourse turned on Oehlenschläger, he exclaimed, with the most comical gravity, “In short, Oehlenschläger was stupid.” I laughed, and asked, “Do you think that ‘Axel and Valborg amount to-nothing?” He replied, “There maybe much that is fine in the work, yet only in temper and sentiment; there is no thought in it.” Thought, which Théophile Gautier once defined, “the final medium in which the poet takes refuge when he is devoid of both passion and coloring,” was the main essential with Paludan-Müller, if not in his poetry, at least in his æsthetics. He himself always strove to represent the idea, in the Platonic sense of the word, as what was eternally typical. Therefore it was that he wrote “Amor and Psyche,” “Adam Homo,” and “Ahasuerus.” When he failed to find this universality, this typical element, he could discover no merit in poetry. He had no patience, for instance, with Björnson’s novels of peasant life. “Anything of that kind may be very well on a small scale,” he said. “It is great folly, however, to devote an entire book to the inner emotions of a little poultry-yard maiden.” What made this remark peculiarly individual was the fact that he offered no critical objections to the mode of treatment; he simply protested against the material as material, against the propriety of a detailed description of an uncultured inner life. A taste for naïveté was wholly lacking in him. On the other hand, he had an actual horror of the theatrical, and in his zealous antipathy he many times found it where others had not discovered it. He called Runeberg theatrical, for instance, and with critical assurance he cited one of the extremely few passages of the Finnish poet where a glimmer of the theatrical can be found. “What a theatre hero is not his Sandel,” said he.

“My horse! bid them saddle my noble Bijou!’

“Who else than a hero of the coulisses would speak so? And then the description of his position on the redoubt,—

‘He proudly remained, unmoved was his mien,
As at first he still sat in view;
His eye it was calm, his brow was serene,
And he shone on his noble Bijou!'”

Paludan-Müller hated the theatrical because he was always on his guard against all greatness that manifested itself in æsthetic form. He found the great Alexander small, and the Indian ascetic Kalanus sublime. In his eyes, human greatness was confined to moral greatness, and moral greatness for him passed entirely into moral purity.


Though he started in his general æsthetic views on the career pointed out by Heiberg, he nevertheless struck ere long into his own independent course. Heiberg was only a moralist in the name of true culture and of good taste; Paludan-Müller became one in the name of stem religious discipline. In religious questions, Heiberg had espoused the cause of Hegelian speculative Christianity; Paludan-Müller became an orthodox theologian. Thus his path for not an inconsiderable distance ran parallel with that of Sören Kierkegaard. Not that he was in any way influenced by this solitary thinker. He cherished but little sympathy for him, and was repelled by his broad, unclassical form, for whose merits he had no comprehension, and whose inner harmony with the mind of the author he did not perceive. It was the general spirit of the times which produced the intellectual harmony of these two solitary chastisers of their contemporaries. Step by step, Danish literature had departed from the ideals of the period of enlightenment, which had still continued to exist in the poetic creations of Oehlenschläger, as well as in the popular scientific works of Hans Christian Oersted. Their life had been of but brief duration. The Danish churchman to whom Schleiermacher corresponded was Mynster, but there is a wide gulf between Schleiermacher’s freethinking and Mynster’s orthodoxy. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a single theologian, Clausen, was the sole spokesman of rationalism; he soon, however, turned completely toward the religious reaction then beginning. Rationalism, it is true, for a short time seemed to have become metamorphosed and developed into Hegelian philosophy of religion; but this movement, too, was wholly unproductive of results. Heiberg, who was its leader, became a follower of that speculative theologian of the Hegelian right flank, Martensen, and Martensen, in his turn, became thoroughly converted to high-church dogmatism. Nothing was now lacking for the completion of this spiritual movement but to deduce from it the practical, ethical results of dogmatic faith. This was done when the race of Oehlenschlägers and Oersteds had begotten the race of Kierkegaards and Paludan-Müllers.

In Kierkegaard’s “Either—Or” is found the sentence, “There are poets who, through their poetic creations, have found themselves.” This remark can well be applied to Paludan-Müller. For what else has a poet done who has traversed the path from coquetry to simplicity, from the intellectual to the true, from the sportive and brilliant to the transparently clear, and from the pleasing to the great?

Paludan-Müller appeared in his early days to be the virtuoso among the contemporary poets of Denmark. The themes of his first works were almost completely buried beneath the trills of caprice and the delicate gradations of wit. In his “Kjærlighed ved Hoffet” (Love at Court, translated into German by E. v. Zoller, 1832), a comedy-after the pattern of the times which was partly inspired by Shakespeare, partly by Gozzi, pastoral poetry and lyrical court phraseology, puns and witticisms, dreamy enthusiasm, and fool’s bells, all jingled together. The fact was, the work had been enriched from the horn of plenty of a highly endowed youth, who was free from care and without any defined plan. In the poem “Danserinden” (The Dancing-Girl), whose form and rhythm remind the reader so strongly of Byron’s “Beppo,” or Alfred de Musset’s “Namouna,” the virtuosity was more unbridled and capricious; the smooth-flowing stanzas narrated, lamented, laughed, mocked, played pranks, and glided one into the other with a loquacious flexibility, recalling the manner in which one arabesque passes into another. The serious portions of the narrative do not impress the reader as having actually occurred; the satirical remarks do not seem to be meant in earnest. When, however, a command to believe in the immortality of the soul is interwoven, for instance, with a recommendation of tea, a warning against the insipid poets, and other warnings of a still more captious nature, the cause may be traced less to a frivolous state of mind than to the youthful exuberance that fills the poet from the moment he feels his favorite form of verse, the eight-line stanza, galloping and prancing beneath his efforts. “The Dancing-Girl” is a mingling of intellect and inspiration, out of which neither clear colors nor distinct forms have developed themselves. It is a musical composition that now expresses the light dance of jig, now the yearning of melancholy, as these emotions alternate in the years of puberty, with their bold hopes, their uncomprehended yearnings, their thoughtless squandering of the powers of life. “The Dancing-Girl” was followed the next year by “Amor and Psyche,” a new work of artistic virtuosity, which impresses itself most harmoniously upon the reader’s favor, but has no power to bum forms or images into the soul. It is a music that is at once apprehended, but almost as promptly forgotten, one continual melodious solo and chorus song of spirits, zephyrs, and nymphs, whose sole fault is that it is too perfect in artistic form, too polished and smooth. The whole long dramatic poem does not contain a single characteristic or individual peculiarity, either in diction or in the mode of treatment, and yet something characteristic, that is to say, something unusually marked or sharply defined, would have had a most pleasing effect. As astonishing as is the technique, it is not felt, and only where the technique is present can we speak of style in the true sense of the word. Not those parts which are loaded with the greatest metrical display contain the most vital strophes, bearing most distinctly the impress of the poet’s genius; they are found in the following words of Sorrow, where she casts her dark veil over the sorrowing Psyche:—

“Round each mortal’s cradle flying,
Close the mother’s couch beside,
Hordes of woes are softly sighing,
Gloom and care with them abide.
Tears the tender eyes bedewing,
Fears the budding smile subduing,
Shrieks the infant’s lips are parting,
While dawn’s heralds onward glide.

And when childhood’s time is vanished,
Youth’s brief joy has had its day,
Garlands won are faded, banished,
Gone is love’s bewitching play—
When, alas! the dreams have perished,
Once so fondly, proudly cherished,
Hide e’en dead delights and pleasures
In the pangs of death away.”

In these stanzas the melancholy that was peculiar to Paludan-Müller becomes apparent. There is here betrayed that view of death which developed into a tendency to dwell on the thought of death, and which was destined eventually to burst forth in the love of death manifested by a Tithon, a Kalanus, or an Ahasuerus. We here detect the interest in the law of destruction which later produced the poem “Abels Död” (The Death of Abel), the belief that dead happiness embraces within itself all the pangs of death which found expression in “Tithon,” and the feeling that dissolution lurks ever on the threshold of life and of joy, which so often breaks through the poetry of Paludan-Müller. Pay heed, for instance, to the following lines from the poem entitled “Dance Music”:—

“Lo! the sunshine, golden, gleaming,
Lights with smiles the azure skies!
Yonder cloud speeds onward, beaming;
Like a bird, with wings, it flies.
Hear the ringing
Now of singing
That is filling
Lofty trees with music thrilling,—
All this glory swiftly dies.”

We may call this tone shrill, yet it did not jar like a false note in the ear of Paludan-Müller. On the contrary, he found a certain satisfaction, a certain consolation, indeed, in keeping before his own eyes and those of others the inexorable, the inevitable fate of all that is finite. When the custom of circulating the photographs of celebrated men, with a brief autograph inscription, came into vogue, he wrote beneath a picture that represented him reading a book, the characteristic words:—

“All earthly things, ’tis written here,
Go up and down by turns;
So he who stands above to-day
What is before him learns.”

Justice, however, has not been accorded to the drama “Amor and Psyche,” if attention be merely called to the fact that it is the harbinger of the poet’s most beautiful and profound works. As intellectual poetry it has a connected and complete symbolism which obliges the author to be more rigid than ever before in handling his materials, and it is distinguished by that peculiar tinting which is so characteristic of Paludan-Müller’s mythological poems. It is not a strong tinting, now gray in gray, now light in light; yet the poem is by no means colorless. The truth is, its hue is that of the reflection of pearls, the glimmer of mother of pearl, the delicate play of prismatic shades that might have radiated from the shell in which Venus emerged from the sea. The Phantasus of Paludan-Müller paints the portrait of Psyche for Amor on just such a “pearl-white” shell; and this is almost symbolic of the way in which the poet himself has executed the form of Psyche. This class of his creations, indeed, is not of an earthly nature; earth is not their true home, and even those among them who like Psyche are of earthly descent, must bid to earth a final imperative farewell.

Psyche (kneeling).
“Gaia, thou hallowéd mother,
Who gave me birth and protection.
Thou from whose lips ever tender,
I heard life’s earliest accents,
Take thou thy daughter’s farewell!
Nevermore shall I behold thee,
Never again shall I wander
Over the loved spots of memory.
*    *    *    *    *    *    *
Yonder, in heavenly mansions,
Earthly sorrows will vanish.”

The entire poetic endeavor of Paludan-Müller in this period was, upon the whole, one magnificent, many-shaded leave-taking of Gaia. What else, indeed, was the tendency of romance! It feared and shunned the life about it, and the era so wholly devoid of character in which its poets, to their sorrow, found themselves born. Paludan-Müller with his whole soul shared this repugnance of the romantic school for the actual surroundings of the poet, as well as its aversion to lingering, even in fancy, about this heavy, dark globe which kept up its ceaseless revolutions with the poet and all his air-castles, whether he would have it so or not. The age in which he lived was loathsome to him, and he had his own era and his own contemporaries in mind when he permitted Tithon to say of his:—

“What fruits thinkest thou this era will develop?
An era ’tis that needs a mighty storm
To rouse its energies from heavy slumber;
An era full of dreams instead of efforts,
Of petty competition, not of action bold;
An era when each crowns himself with glory
And sees himself in heroes of the past,
When mortals would be lofty as immortals
And yet have servile minds—how I abhor them!”

True, this description concerns Asia Minor at the time of the Trojan War; but it is one that accords marvellously well with that given in “Adam Homo” of the reign of Christian VIII. in Denmark:—

“It was a time when mediocre mortals
Were puffed up everywhere with boastful pride;
*    *    *    *    *    *    *     *    *    *    *
A time when there were those together clustered
Who something great to pass proposed to bring,
While they at best accomplished not a thing.”

It is readily comprehensible that a poet who cast so gloomy a gaze upon his surroundings should have preferred, like Tithon, a sojourn in the “realm of the aurora” to that among his own contemporaries.

The most singular fact of all was that he was not alone in his predilection for this higher sphere. All the best brains of the period had instituted the same comparison and made the same choice; there was a poetic vein in most of them, and so it came to pass that in the realm of the aurora the poet found himself in a numerous company.

This wrought a change in the poetic tendency of Paludan-Müller. He paused suddenly in his flight from reality, wheeled about, and took the direction back to earth again. In the poem “Tithon” he paints life on the island of the morning dawn, on the coast of the sea of ether, to which the love of Aurora has uplifted Tithon. It is an existence such as that of Rinaldo in the enchanted gardens of Armida, and a veil of roseate hue is spread over all the surroundings, over the skies, as well as over the beautiful women of the island. It is a life passed amid song, clinking of goblets, love, and music, and sails on the sea of ether in eternal youth, during an eternal spring. And yet this life is never spiritless and insipid, nor are its enjoyments ever commonplace; they are blissful enjoyments. It is akin to the life of which so many noble enthusiasts among the Danish contemporaries of our poet dreamed; the life that hovered before Carsten Hauch, for instance, when he sang of that “sea of the milky way, where the spirits of the redeemed, freed from care and sorrow, their eyes illumined with the brilliant light of immortality, glide onward through unknown clouds.” It is that alibi of enjoyment that Ludwig Bödtcher and so many other similar artist natures, during the best years of their lives, sought beneath the skies of Italy; it is that never-ending spring and that eternal youth which Christian Winther and Hans Christian Andersen, and all those men of their generation who like themselves did not know how to grow old, permitted themselves to cling to and conjure up. It is a strong proof, however, of the greatness of Paludan-Müller’s spirit that this life and this beauty did not long attract him. His poetic muse depicts Tithon, in the midst of his forgetfulness of earth and his revelling in enjoyment, devoured with half-unconscious yearning for his country, his people, his relations, and the entire un-ideal reality which he has forsaken. Nor is this yearning without foundation; for nothing less than Priam’s ascension to the throne, the abduction of Helen, the ten-years’ war of which Homer is supposed to have sung, and the complete destruction of Troy, has taken place while Tithon is revelling in the cloud-land of the morning dawn. Thus it was once upon a time, when the French Revolution was enacting from beginning to end its magnificent drama, that certain people on the coast of the Sound were singing drinking-songs and club-songs. Thus it was that Copenhagen played its private comedy during the battle of Waterloo, and Denmark rioted in beautiful verses and rejoiced in æsthetic tilting-matches while the July Revolution was in full blast.

Paludan-Müller has his Tithon compel Aurora to give him permission to return to earth, and the following words uttered by Tithon at the moment when, after long absence, he once more sets foot upon earth, indicate perhaps the most significant turning-point of the poet’s own course of development—

“O Earth, thy air is heavy! Like a burden
It falls upon my limbs and on my bosom;
A deadly weight, it presses on my shoulders.
Unfriendly is thy greeting—cold and sharp,
To meet me sendest thou thy wind inclement,
And in thy winter garb hast clad thyself.
Where’er I gaze, thy plains look bare and dreary;
The leaves upon thy trees are sere and yellow;
Thy grass is withered; decked hast thou already
Yon hill-tops far away with wreaths of snow.
Wilt thou alarm me? Is so stern thy visage?
Because in utter folly I forsook thee?
All hail to thee, O thou, my native soil!
With this fond kiss my tears of joy I tender!
Thou fill’st my heart e’en tho’ thou’rt bare and dreary.”

The territory here trodden by Paludan-Müller with Tithon is the territory of Adam Homo. At the moment when the atmosphere of earth weighs heavily on Tithon’s shoulders, Paludan-Müller once more hails Gaia. He had at that time already completed the first part of “Adam Homo.”


“This is flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood,” Paludan-Müller’s contemporaries might have exclaimed when “Adam Homo” appeared. The same poet who in youth had painted nebulous images in the clouds, and who as an old man, having returned to the standpoint of his youth, wrote: “People demand flesh and blood of poetry; flesh and blood are to be found in the slaughter-houses; of the poetic art sentiment and soul alone should be required”—this same poet, in the meridian of his manhood, gave to his contemporaries and to posterity the truest, most lifelike poem Danish literature, up to that time, had produced,—a work whose hero, far from resembling its author’s former heroes, who were simply poetically clad thoughts, was the reader’s own brother, a being whose character is a cruel satire. Like Shylock’s pound of flesh, the book was cut from the spot nearest the heart of the living generation, with the knife of inexorable moral law.

Almost reluctantly the poet seems to have attacked his task. As the realistic epoch was but of brief duration with him, he gives us the impression of having actually drawn close to reality merely in order to settle his account with it once for all, through his bitter derision and his scathing judgment, and then to forsake it again in the utmost haste. It seems as though he would say: “You have reproached me with having no eye for the home-life about me, you have always charged me with the foreign nature of my delineations; very well, I will make it right with you, I will single out one from your very midst and take him for my hero.” About the same time Kierkegaard, who was also moved by a bitter scorn for his contemporaries, wrote in his “Stages on the Path of Life”: “One step is yet to be taken, a veritable non plus ultra, since such a generation of pot-house politicians and life-insurers charge poesy with injustice because she does not select her heroes among its own worthy contemporaries. Surely this is doing poesy a wrong; but it would be well not to pursue her too long; otherwise she might end Aristophanes-like by seizing the first sausage-dealer that came in her way and making a hero of him.” This step is actually taken in “Adam Homo.” The naked reality, all that is ugly in the external world, the lack of ideality in social life, all the frailty, wretchedness, baseness, and despicableness in the inner life of humanity, is laid bare without reserve, without mercy. The poet’s muse, which formerly, in his “Dancing-Girl,” coquettishly veiled in crêpe and gauze, had sped lightly over the polished floor in dainty slippers, has now transformed itself into a Sister of Mercy, who, at once stem and gentle, ventures out in the worst weather, well shod in stout shoes. Fearless of misery wherever it may be found, not susceptible to any contagion whatever, she passes unharmed through the filthiest and most wretched streets, or she stands in the houses of the aristocrats, undazzled by their lustre and splendor, and penetrates all hearts with her sublime, superior gaze. She calls everything by its true name, the most delicate falsehood as well as the coarsest misery.

The poem was a bit of Denmark, a bit of history,—a bit of living web cut from the great loom of time. The metaphysical mirror of the humanity that the mythical poesies had produced was here supplanted by the psychological and ethical study of a single individual. The scene was no longer laid in a court in the land of romance, nor in an air-castle in the realm of ether; the action took place in Jütland, Zealand, and Fünen, and the period being neither the eternal moment nor the fantastic “Once upon a time,” embraced the years 1830-48, the golden years of the bourgeoisie in Western Europe, and those in which it founded its dominion in Northern Europe. For the first time, space and time were recognized as significant powers by Paludan-Müller.

Yet while the poet’s task had thus become individualized, and had acquired defined boundary lines in time and space, it none the less aimed at universality. Adam Homo—that was meant, as the title itself indicated, to represent man in general, and the hero was no less typical than the poet’s previous mythical heroes. He is in the main a mythical form; his history is the mythical biography of the Danish bourgeoisie.

There was one expression that kept continually recurring in the discourse of Paludan-Müller when he spoke of science or art, and that expression was “great tasks.” In these words were comprised his claims upon himself and his fellow-laborers. He himself always sought out great tasks, because it was his firm belief that they alone develop the powers and are worthy of an effort of strength, and he was continually encouraging us, his younger fellow-laborers, to set ourselves the task of dealing with great problems, because only through the solution of such could our work win a permanent place in literature. “There is,” said he, “in all literatures more than enough that is scattered to the winds like chaff; make it your task to attempt something that will endure, something that has a future before it.” The surest means of attaining this end was, in his estimation, in his own art, the endeavor to represent, in the characters and destinies of the individual personalities, the type of universal humanity. Those poets, in whose efforts the casual plays a certain rôle, will not attain so high a plane, it is true, yet will often acquire, by way of compensation, a more volatile, more sportive life, a more captivating charm; for the accidental in poetic art is synonymous with the bizarre, the gracefully surprising, the incalculable, and yet so natural irregularity. In the choice of his plots Paludan-Müller is to a rare degree the enemy of chance. His perception of what is fundamentally human, no less than his lack of original creative genius, prevented him from ever selecting psychologically singular subjects. The race of the normal homo sapiens, in its entire folly, was the sole material that possessed for him a thorough power of attraction.

In “Adam Homo,” the task the poet set himself was to show how a man, taken from the masses, and equipped with neither the best nor the poorest endowments, from youth up, a man as full of ideal hopes and resolutions as his betters, can squander his entire intellectual fortune, and finally end as a spiritless, narrow-minded old fogy. At the same time he wished to portray how the hero for every degree he descended in the intellectual and moral scale, was compelled, of a necessity, to climb one round higher in the social ladder.

Paludan-Müller was little inclined to throw any light on the history of his works; but when once, without any preliminary, I asked, “What part of ‘Adam Homo’ did you write first?” he replied, unhesitatingly, “The epitaph,”—the only lines in the poem that are printed in italics.

“Here Adam Homo rests, a worthy soul and bright,
A Baron, Statesman, too, who wore the ribbon white.”

Had his contemporaries possessed this elucidation, which did not surprise me in the least, they would not have fumbled about so blindly in their efforts to understand the first six cantos of the poem that appeared in 1841, and whose continuation and completion did not follow until seven years later. Even Heiberg, the foremost Danish critic of the day, after reading the first part, deemed it possible that the poet might intend to let Adam end as a happy married man, in an idyllic country parsonage. So far was the public at first removed from comprehending the wrathful pessimism and the well-considered irony from which the poetic work had proceeded. People had no idea that from the moment Paludan-Müller had put pen to paper, it had been his design to allow this representative of the Danish bourgeoisie, who began life with youthful amiability and youthful enthusiasm, gradually to give up all he had once believed in, and to betray the confidence of all those who believed in him. No one suspected that it was Adam Homo’s destiny to come out as a popular man and a popular orator, only directly afterwards to alter his “ideal,” and to drop the love of common people, to develop into a “polished man,” to seek refuge amid courtiers and statesmen, and finally, covered with titles, and hung all over with orders, to be solemnly buried as a baron, a privy councillor, a chevalier, etc.

And if Heiberg had no conception of this, can we wonder that the public at first remained wholly without comprehension of the significance of the poem? The book met with no success, and was pronounced decidedly dull. The reading world, unaccustomed to such substantial food, and having been so often invited by Paludan-Müller to feast at the table of the gods on Olympus, found some passages offensive, others commonplace, and came to the conclusion that Paludan-Müller must this time have chosen a theme that lay quite beyond the province of his genius. And yet this so deliberately condemned “Adam Homo” was destined, when completed, not many years later, to take the rank of the most typical and most significant existing Danish work of the narrative kind.

Doctrinal æsthetics would naturally object not a little to an epos presenting a picture which, as a whole, is so little edifying, an epos whose prevailing mood presents so imperfect an atonement, indeed, properly speaking, only a theological atonement. Even from a non-doctrinal standpoint there is also a fundamental objection to be made. The great difficulty, based on the subject itself, was that Paludan-Müller did not aim, as such an infinite number of other authors have aimed, at portraying for the reader the narrow-minded, commonplace citizen in his foil glory, in order to submit him at once to sharp criticism. He on the contrary wanted to show how such strait-laced old fogies become what they are. Now most characters of the kind in poetry, as well as in real life, do not become what they are, or at least only become so to a trifling degree: they are born Philistines. In such forms the ugly element is resolved, without the slightest inharmonious echo, into the comical. The father of Adam Homo is one of these native-born Philistines, and is, therefore, thoroughly comical. But to delineate the gradual growth of the comic character is upon the whole a stumbling-block for modern poesy. Aristophanes would not attempt it; as the Greek tragedy began with the catastrophe, so Greek comedy began at once with the complete upheaval of the world. In “Adam Homo” the consequence of the hero becoming comical instead of being so from the beginning, is, in short, that at first he calls forth sympathy through his amiability, and that toward the end he arouses merriment through the ridiculousness that he manifests. But the transition itself, which consists in the gradual ruin of a well-endowed human being, is repulsively sorrowful, and yet it is the point of the whole.

Adam Homo is a weak person, whose weakness makes him faithless in love and unreliable in politics. He is not weak, however, in the same way as are so many of Goethe’s principal characters, such as Weislingen, Fernando, Clavigo, or Eduard; for he is not charmingly attractive in his weakness. In common with the majority of modern authors, Goethe has often invested weakness with the charm of amiability, as in modern poetry generally it is but too frequently the secret of amiability. Nothing, however, is the object of a more scathing irony on the part of Paludan-Müller than a defence of Adam Homo, such as that of the advocates hominis, in the last canto, which is based on the amiability of the hero.

Without being directly amiable, weak people may have something attractive from a humorous point of view. There is an old method, based on the nature of the case, by means of which they are most sure of pleasing. Personal amiability can invest weakness only for a time with the lustre of freedom and the form of strength, yet it is always on the point of transforming itself into something base or odious. Against this downfall, however, it can secure itself by the acceptance of an inexorable fate; for viewed in a fatalistic light it arouses only laughter and deteriorates wholly into the comical. This general application Paludan-Müller has succeeded in making with perhaps more depth, and, from a psychological standpoint, more correctness, than has ever before been employed. His Adam is a theoretician, who always has at his command a ready supply of half-conscious sophistry, and who throughout his entire life casts the responsibility of his pitiful weakness alternately upon mere chance and upon stem necessity.

If, notwithstanding all this, the total impression be not unconditionally comical, it is because of a circumstance that Mendelssohn in his “Rhapsodien” has thus keenly and justly characterized: “We cease to laugh,” said he, “at persons who are dear to us, or in any way near to us, as soon as their faults or follies begin to assume an important character.” Every one, however, is his own nearest neighbor, and if a continual “Thou art the man” be hurled at us, it becomes impossible for us to laugh.

In the course of the narrative, the author of “Adam Homo” is continually telling us indirectly what he utters directly in the last canto, as follows:—

“Thou, too, shalt make one day the selfsame journey,
When thou at length with life on earth art done;
And as the actor needs initiation,
So thou must make beforehand preparation.

“In Homo’s stead thyself thou well mightst be,
And words that served for Homo’s just confession,
When him behind the grave’s dark brink we see,
Might rouse the thought: View all with due discretion;
Whate’er applies to him, applies as well to me.”

Even the most ludicrous matters in such a case cease to be wholly absurd, and absolute terror at thought of the possibilities that dwell within his own soul readily seizes the reader, especially the youthful reader, in considering passages which the author had meant to have a purely poetic effect. Thus, for instance, in the place where Homo has become lord chamberlain, we read:—

“There swayed his solitude a wondrous feeling;
His soul seemed freed from every narrowing band;
Within his heart of hearts he blessed the hand
That dealt his wounds and gave him means of healing,
That now so tenderly was balsam dealing,
That helped his spirit ruin to withstand.
A guiding Providence he saw most clearly,
And, deeply moved, his thanks he gave sincerely.”

The biting satire in this gratitude for the keys of office has almost a painful effect. The poet takes the matter too gravely to be able to excite us to laughter over his hero; he does not venture to designate him as amiable, for Adam is seriously to be condemned; he will not abandon him to comedy, for Adam—in accordance with the author’s views of life as a theologian—must preserve a loop-hole for mercy.

The standpoint of Paludan-Müller is not that of humor but of ethical irony, for what distinguishes irony from humor is its lack of sympathy with its object. This standpoint is not the purely artistic one that lingers with the same loving absorption over the sick and over the well, over vice and over virtue, over what the artist hates in the actual world, and over that which is dear to him. Nor is his mode of contemplation the purely humane, which, arrayed by the love of humanity, remains mild, considerate, and harmonious, and which begets a laughter that is without bitterness. Paludan-Müller’s satire is cold and scathing, and thus acquires a peculiar power of its own. Just observe how the burning scorn of the poet almost imperceptibly breaks a path for itself through an adjective or an incidental remark, as often as there is occasion to deride the hero’s good impulses, which are of such brief duration.

Here are a few examples: A letter from home announces to Adam that his mother, who has long been in failing health, is lying at the point of death, and in order to be able to see her once more, he tears himself away from his affianced bride and starts on the journey to Jütland. But while still under way he learns of his mother’s death that has meanwhile taken place. Deeply affected, he communicates the sorrowful tidings to his sweetheart, assuring her at the same time of his faith in the future and of his unchangeable fidelity. The letter is not hypocritical, can scarcely even be called hollow; it is merely naïve. The poet, however, who knows long before the reader how Adam is to end, can scarcely wait for the moment when the change in him takes place. A long time before Adam has merited the satirical chastisement Paludan-Müller swings the scourge of mockery above his head to an accompaniment of laughter, as follows:—

“He rose and his epistle sealed with power,
And then he sought the post-office once more,
Where he all franked his full confession bore,
Thus yielding up his bosom’s richest dower.”

Adam goes on board the steamer to hasten home to visit his mother’s newly made grave. On the vessel, however, he most unexpectedly encounters his first flame, the Countess Clara, who in order to secure the escort of Adam to her country estate, introduces him to her husband, the corpulent, dull Chamberlain Galt. In vain does Adam struggle against accepting the invitation, under the plea that his mother has just died. Clara declares it to be her positive duty to console him in his affliction. His betrothal he has either concealed or denied. He allows himself to be persuaded to postpone his journey home. Clara and he sally forth to make purchases; she wishes to buy a feather for her hat, he a weed of crêpe for his. Clara first secures her ostrich feather in her own hat:—

“Round Adam’s hat she folded then the sable,
And that it charmingly became him found;
They entered now the carriage,—he complacently,
And Clara, waving plume and all, triumphantly.”

If we but pause to remember that this weed is the badge of mourning for his glorious, ardently loved mother, we find ourselves painfully affected by this cruel irony. “If it be true,” we involuntarily exclaim, “that we are so completely children of the moment, of the passing mood, of self-deception, that our best feelings, our most earnest resolutions and our purest memories, may thus evaporate into mist, or vanish like smoke, how canst thou, O poet, make so satirical a face at the thought? Hast thou no tears for that singular and dismal mixture of human nature that renders such misery possible?” The questioner must compel himself to recall the fact that this poet beyond all else is an enraged moralist, who is pursuing a combined religious and poetical tendency in his poem. Personal morality is to him everything, and he does not regard it as a link of the great whole, a special organic function of the organism of the world, comparable to that of the liver or the heart in the human body. He has eyes for it alone. Wherever he finds it, his gaze becomes obscure to all else; wherever it is lacking, he sees only its absence; and “eo ipso profulget, quod non videtur.

Adam may be said to live through three periods; in the first he is naïve, in the second he is wicked, in the third he is stupid. In the first and third the masterly power of the portrayal is only entertaining; in the middle period of selfdelusion and of slow inner debasement and corruption, the same masterly power produces a painfully distressing, effect on the tender-hearted reader, especially the lady reader. But objections of this kind cannot mar the worth of a poem if it but possess the merit of being alive, and “Adam Homo” bears within itself a life that will survive the existence of a series of human generations. The works which were mentioned in the same breath with this poem at the time of its appearance are already forgotten, and after the lapse of several hundred years people will in all probability still turn back to it as one of the classic works of Danish literature; for “Adam Homo” is not only a work of art, it is an historic record of the first rank.

Unquestionably the views of a past period have left behind them strong traces in the satire which uplifts itself above this period and judges it. But without his vigorous hold on the current theological and social views of life, the poet, on the other hand, would scarcely have been able to preserve his never-failing surety of moral judgment, which now makes the poem so clear and transparent. To him, as to his contemporaries in Denmark, Strauss is a horror and George Sand an absurdity. He is so eager to attack Strauss that he has the sponsors mention him in the very first conversation in the book, at the time of Adam’s christening; although Adam, at the appearance of the poem in 1841, must have been about twenty-five years old, and “The Life of Jesus,” by Strauss, only appeared in 1835. And if he wants to delineate a representative of the female type that he detests, he knows no better way than to make her a caricature of female emancipation, and let her have the portrait of George Sand hanging on her wall. We would do wrong, however, to cling to a single unwise judgment, or a limitation in any one point, where there is so much that bears witness of the keenest and most comprehensive mind. What though the metaphysical threads that wind their way through the narrative, the numerous reflections regarding the freedom of the will, chance, and necessity appear to us a trifle antiquated; they occupy upon the whole so little space that they could not prejudice the effect of the totality on any susceptible mind. And what a fulness of deep and clear impressions do not remain!

It appears to me unquestionable that this is the most masculine poetic work that has been written in the Danish language. Many other poets of modern times have been children, or blind enthusiasts, or wanton youths, or vain egotists; the author of “Adam Homo” was a man. Who would have thought that Paludan-Müller, when he once resolved to descend from the ivory tower where he had hitherto held sway, would have set foot on the pavement with so bold a tread! Other poetic works of Danish literature are characterized by grace, beauty, romantic enthusiasm, or thorough apprehension of nature; this book is true, and is thus more instructive and more profound than all the rest combined. Read it more than once, and you will be convinced of its truth.

The six last cantos of the poem appeared at an inopportune moment, in December, 1848, just as an awakening national life had engendered a host of bright hopes and beautiful illusions, in the midst of whose brilliancy this book in its remoteness from the moment seemed to signify no more than the light of a single star signifies to a ball held in the open air with an illumination of a thousand torchlights. Some nights later, however, long after the torches are burned out, the star becomes visible. Or is it possible that the present generation of cultured youth in Denmark does not yet see it? Often one cannot help asking to what use the youth of a nation puts its most excellent books. Are they really only extant that they may be handsomely bound and placed on the book-shelves for display? Were it otherwise, how could it be that so few traces of their influence are found? Or has the influence of “Adam Homo” perhaps been that it has served other sons of Adam as a sort of guide-book for the journey through life, with directions concerning the goal that is to be reached, the means which must be used, and the rocks that must be avoided, if they would attain as many of the splendors of this earthly life as the hero of the poem?

“Adam Homo,” more than all else that Paludan-Müller has written, is a national poem. There is not the slightest doubt that it, like Puschkin’s “Eugen Onägin,” was called forth and suggested by Byron’s “Don Juan”; the form of the work, the metre, the changeful mood, the quaint swaying to and fro between irony and pathos, finally certain points in Adam’s amorous susceptibility when a schoolboy, and certain details of his wedding, are reminders of the celebrated English epopee; but although “Adam Homo” could never have gained its present shape had it not been for the previous existence of the Byronic poem, the Danish poetic work has such an aroma and earthly flavor of the soil which engendered it that it can claim a place among the few original epic poems of first rank which Europe has produced during the century. It is a poem that stands alone in the field of literature.


Next to “Adam Homo,” the most interesting work of Paludan-Müller is “Kalanus.” It is the positive expression of his ideal, as “Adam Homo” is the negative. Nowhere is his intellectual tendency more akin to the native bent of his great contemporary Kierkegaard than in this work. The problem which “Kalanus” endeavors to solve is precisely the same as the one whose solution Kierkegaard attacked in his “Either-Or” (Enten-Eller), namely, that of contrasting two personalities, one of whom is the direct representative of innate genius, of the pleasure-loving, extremely energetic view of life; and the other the incarnation of ethical profundity and moral grandeur, allowing them to struggle and contend, and convincing the reader of the decisive defeat of the purely natural views of life. With Kierkegaard the two opposing modes of contemplation of life are represented by a follower of æsthetics, and a judge of the supreme court, with Paludan-Müller by celebrated names in history; no less a man than the conqueror of the world, Alexander the Great, represents in “Kalanus” the æsthetic view of life, and the opponent allotted to him is the philosopher Kalanus. The ideal situation in the presentation of an intellectual wrestling-match of this sort would be that the author should succeed in equipping the contending parties with an equal degree of excellency. The actual situation, in this case, is that with Kierkegaard the representative of æsthetics is lavishly endowed with intellectual gifts, while the endowments of the representative of ethics, on the other hand, appear somewhat wooden and weak; and that with Paludan-Müller, on the contrary, the representative of ethics is no less intellectual than inspired, a man of the purest spiritual beauty, while the great Alexander is not placed upon the pinnacle of his historic fame. Such an Alexander as that of Paludan-Müller would never have vanquished Asia. In his enthusiasm for the thinker of India, our author seems to have lost the vital impression that Alexander was a genius, not merely heroic like Achilles, but great like Cæsar. And in the same way as with Alexander, the Grecian mind, as a whole, is degraded to a lower sphere, while the great representatives of Grecian philosophy, in the period of its glory, are permitted to make occasional remarks of so insignificant a nature, and so indicative of poverty of thought, that the Indian recluse has no difficulty whatever in overcoming their arguments. Thus, to be sure, the conqueror remains the only one who is in the slightest degree a worthy opponent of the ascetic.

The plot represents the Indian hermit Kalanus as believing devoutly that he has discovered in Alexander, who has just reached India on his triumphal progress through Asia, a revelation of Brahma’s eternal light. He approaches the king in humble adoration, follows him at a respectful distance in his march through the desert as far as Pasargada, where he has the good fortune to be led once more into the presence of the mighty ruler, and falling upon his bended knee, he addresses him with the titles, “God, Ruler, Prince of Wisdom, King of Power.” Alexander, recognizing the rare worth of the man, with kindly purpose attaches him to his person, and permits him to participate in a festival he holds that same evening. At this celebration, which the poet has portrayed with marked success, there are present some beautiful Greek courtesans, who sing the praises of Alexander, and amid loud rejoicing ransack his jewel-casket. To his profound astonishment and infinite horror, Kalanus now discovers that the great potentate, in whom he had seen the incarnate god, is neither inclined to shun the intoxication slumbering in the dregs of the flowing goblet, nor is master of the demon that lies concealed behind the mask of female beauty. In the first moment of consternation he plunges, knife in hand, at one of the courtesans, but is soon disarmed. Like one paralyzed he stands rooted to the spot when the banquet is over, not only bitterly disabused in his faith, but crushed with contrition to think that he should have confounded Brahma with a weak and mortal man like himself. Through self-annihilation alone can he hope to atone for his sin, and return to the god. He resolves, after Indian fashion, to immolate himself on the flaming pyre.

The next day, however, when Alexander, having slept off his intoxication, learns the resolution of Kalanus, he fears that he dealt too sternly the previous evening with his foreign adorer. So he hastens to Kalanus to gladden the hermit’s heart with the assurance that he still enjoys the favor of Alexander. He arrives at the moment when Kalanus, thoroughly prepared in spirit for the sacrificial fires, has just been anointed by his mother for death. The potentate makes an effort to calm the ascetic, and learns to his surprise that Kalanus has not been swayed by fear of Alexander’s wrath. He implores him to cast aside his resolve, but in vain. The tyrant in Alexander is aroused; he threatens Kalanus, he commands him to live; but his menaces rebound from him who is about to die of his own free will. On the wondering at the defiance of the Indian follows in the king’s heart fury, and when the quiet thinker, remaining in an unruffled state of composure, only lays stress on the unworthy attitude of permitting the mind to be transported with anger, Alexander believes that scorn has followed in the footsteps of defiance. With the exclamation “slave!” he raises his hand to smite the ascetic. The blow, however, is parried, and the bitterness of the monarch, dispelled by the calm, tender efforts at persuasion, becomes transformed into noble entreaties, magnanimous promises,—all in vain. Alexander implores Kalanus to live out of friendship for him, entreats him to share with him his throne, to accept crown and sceptre from his hand,—his words produce as little impression as his previous threats. Then follows a sublime scene: Alexander casts himself upon his knees before Kalanus, and supplicates him to live.

This scene is the most beautiful, the most dramatic, the most spiritual that Paludan-Müller ever wrote. It is the crown of his dramatic scenes. It is the sum total of his thoughts and dreams. In the moment when Paludan-Müller allows Alexander to sink upon his knees, he casts all the greatness of the world, its splendor and its honor, genius and fame as well, at the feet of moral purity. This bending of the knee outweighs the prostration of Kalanus before Alexander in the first act. But even the utmost self-abasement of the hero is in vain, and the drama ends with the ascension from the funeral pyre of the spirit of Kalanus, purified in the sacred flames, to the heaven of Brahma. With all that Kierkegaard has to offer of intellectual endeavor, wit, learning, dialectics, and moral enthusiasm, in his “Either—Or,” he has achieved no such brilliant triumph for the ethical mode of viewing life as that of Paludan-Müller in this one scene.

And as we must accept the obstinate adherences of Tithon to his resolution to return to earth as a symptom of the approach of the brief-lived yet so happy tendency of Paludan-Müller to realism, so we can see in the equally obstinate adherence of Kalanus to his resolve to forsake earthly life a symptom of the poet’s return to the abstract poesy of his youth. The heathen mythological element reappears in his works “Paradise” and “Ahasuerus” as biblical myths. In the works that follow “Adam Homo,” to be sure, there is a far deeper psychology than in those of the author’s first youth; the psychological insight gained in the years of mature manhood could not possibly be lost; but these later works no longer treat of life in its breadth and with its motley coloring. They are works that withdraw from reality, and find vent in cloister life, in the hermit ideal, in expiatory death, or in the destruction of the universe; their poetry is that of renunciation, of the annihilation of self and of the universe.


The most vigorous product of this last period is the dramatic poem “Ahasuerus,” an emphatic prologue of the Last Judgment. We experience, with the cobbler of Jerusalem, the last day of the world, learn from him of the course of earthly life since Christianity redeemed humanity, are informed how beastliness followed close upon the heels of humanity until the rule of the animal nature was followed by the Antichrist, as described in the poem. It is a drama to which Joseph de Maistre might with rapture have signed his name, and its attacks on constitutionalism and tolerancy form a versified commentary on the syllabus of the Vatican. The poem denotes, in common with some of the later writings of Kierkegaard, the crisis of the reaction in Danish literature against the eighteenth century. In its monologue there are some very tedious portions; but it has some dazzlingly superb, and at the same time, exceedingly touching passages in the songs of the choruses, which express the anguish of mortals in the contemplation of the coming misfortune, and no less in the exquisite song of the angels who lull Ahasuerus into eternal repose. Yet the most individual part of the poem, a passage which displays an almost Michael-Angelo-like grandeur, is that where the trumpet tones evoke annihilation in all that is finite. Let me cite the first three stanzas:—

The Trumpet (from the clouds).
“Kneel, kneel, O earth! in sack-cloth clad and ashes,
Discard the mask with boastful pride that flashes!
The angel hosts in the sky are now appearing;
Your doom is nearing!

“Down, down to dust, ye vanities resplendent,
Ye stones of nature, works of art transcendent!
Each crowned turret, and each lofty tower,
Destroyed your power.

“Down, down to dust, the cup of death there draining,
From dreams of honor, schemes of pride refraining,
Down, down, and learn the worth, all steeped in degradation,
Of reputation.”

These trumpet tones are the résumé of Paludan-Müller’s poetry.

As an antithesis to the repentant Wandering Jew in “Ahasuerus” is given the Antichrist. Unfortunately the weakness of this form is somewhat prejudicial to the effect of the poem. This Antichrist accords thoroughly with ecclesiastical tradition; he is no Lucifer, no fallen angel; in his commonplace, feeble attitude he vividly recalls the vacillating, deceitful Antichrist of Luca Signorelli in the cathedral of Orvieto. Moreover, it can readily be comprehended that Paludan-Müller, in his adherence to the orthodox impressions of his childhood, might fancy he could not paint the devil black enough, or, more correctly speaking, flat enough. Now, in order to invest the drama with play and counter-play, and thrilling interest, the Antichrist should have been equipped with powerful and brilliant qualities, that would in themselves have explained his authority. If Alexander was placed at a disadvantage, however, still less justice was done the Antichrist, and no better fate was reserved for the Lucifer in Paludan-Müller’s double drama “Paradise.” This Lucifer, to be sure, is enterprising and keen-sighted; he conceives, for instance, the original idea to split the kernel from which the Tree of Knowledge is to grow; but such a Lucifer after the “Cain” of Byron is after all only an Iliad after the Iliad of Homer. The first half of “Paradise” contains the most exquisite lyric strains. In the alternating song between spirit and nature, and in the song of the angel to the morning star, may be found a cosmic poetry which, in its purity and freshness, is only surpassed by that of Shelley; but the insignificance of Lucifer combined with the unsuccessful, and by far too childish naïveté of Adam and Eve, weakens the impression of the great plan of the poem. The orthodoxy of Paludan-Müller checked the flight of his fancy in “Ahasuerus” as well as in “Paradise”: in majorem gloriam dei Antichrist became a prattler; Lucifer a spirit of the second rank.


As an artist, Paludan-Müller presents the contradiction that in his entire intellectual tendency he is a pronounced spiritualist, with a marked bias for the supernatural and abstract, while in his unquestionably most important and most vital work, which would surely preserve his name from oblivion, even had he written nothing else, he proved himself a decided realist, and looked actual life in the face with a persistence that is very rare in Danish poetry. Now this contradiction in itself indicates still another, as follows:—

Only reluctantly, as a rule, did he approach earth, and yet it was extremely seldom that he engaged in spiritual poetry according to the traditional acceptation of the phrase. His Pegasus bore him quite as often to the heathen Elysium as to the Christian heaven, and even where he seems to be directly expressing the Christian ideal, he is merely touching upon it to leave it in the next breath. “Kalanus,” for instance, appears at the first glance as though it should properly be called a Christian poem; for it unquestionably arouses the thought in the reader’s mind that if Kalanus, instead of being the contemporary of Alexander, had been a contemporary of Christ, and if the latter, as the orthodox maintain, had called himself God, all the hopes and aspirations of the ascetic would assuredly have been fulfilled. If we regard it a little more closely, however, we shall find that the poem contains rather an Indian than a Christian enthusiasm for death. Suicide, which Christianity has always condemned, is represented as the one absolutely ideal action, and even if the flames of the funeral pyre be accepted as a purgatory, similar to that with which “Adam Homo” ends, it is, nevertheless, extremely singular that the sole dogma which seems to exercise an inspiring influence upon this Protestant poet is the dogma of purgatory that has been rejected by Protestantism, just as the sole moral type which he passionately extols is that of the hermit which Protestantism has discountenanced.

It was an honest and true remark that the brother of the poet uttered over his coffin, when, after the attempt made by Bishop Martensen to claim Paludan-Müller as the poet of the official Protestant Church, he said that he who had never employed his poetry in the service of the Church could not, without some reservation, be called a Christian poet. With all his private orthodoxy, Paludan-Müller never wrote a single hymn. With all his poetic predilection for the Bible and Christian legends, he always turned back to the heathen myth as to the mirror of his soul. He was a Christian because he was spiritual by nature, not the reverse, and his spirituality, therefore, accorded quite as fully with the withdrawal from earth in the holy Nirvana, and with the classical enthusiasm for Venus Urania, as with the Christian enthusiasm for saints and martyrs. Under all forms, self-abnegation, penance, mortification of the flesh and blood were dear to him.

He might well, like the Greek philosopher of old, have borne the surname Peisithanatos. He belonged, like Leopardi, to that little group of spirits that may justly be called the lovers of death. When his contemporary, the great Danish erotic poet, Christian Winther, became old, he wrote a poem in which he gave expression to his love of life, and declared that when his last hour should strike, he would “place himself in Charon’s boat with sullen mien and deep chagrin”; Paludan-Müller, on the contrary, wanted to cry to Charon, like that Adonis about whom he wrote his last poem, “Take me, too!” and, before the ferryman could distinguish whence the voice came, he wanted to spring into the boat.

I do not speak here of his personal faith as a man; I know that he believed in a life after death; I even remember how, when he learned that David Strauss had dedicated a book to the memory of his deceased brother, he, in his naïve orthodoxy, conceived this to be a proof that Strauss had not been able to tear himself free from the idea of personal immortality. I merely wish to speak of Paludan-Müller as a thinker, as a poet; and as such he loved death, not immortality. How weary, how deadly weary of life is Tithon! With what earnestness Kalanus asks of Alexander: “O tell me, what can better be than death?” With what rapture does not Ahasuerus take refuge in his sheltered grave at the moment when all other poor mortals must arise from theirs, and with what blissful joy does not he repeat his refrain, “Away to repose, eternal!”

As an old man, Paludan-Müller wrote his lengthy novel “Ivar Lykke,” which contains a beautiful testimony of his ardent patriotic love and his upright mode of thought, but which otherwise is a work of but little poetic merit. He, who for thirty years had lived the life of a recluse, could not write novels. The colossal work in three volumes is completely outbalanced by the short poem, occupying but comparatively few pages, “Adonis,” which was his parting word to the reading world. The latter is a heathen apotheosis of death. Wearied of Venus and of her restless pleasures, Adonis takes refuge in the realm of Proserpine, and there reposes in a state of eternal meditation. Proserpine accosts him in the following tender words:—

“Consolation seek with me!
None of passion’s fancies learning,
No regrets, no sighs, no yearning—
Meditation first shall be.”

And the poem ends with this solemn and beautiful stanza:—

“In the realm to death made blest,
Lethe’s waters round them closing,
These two lovers sat reposing,
As for everlasting rest.
All is silent as can be,
And the vaulted skies up yonder
Swarm with many a starry wonder,
While the moon sinks in the sea.”

In this dreamy attitude, at the feet of the goddess of death, let us leave the noble poet.

There he sits, while his most beautiful poetic visions glide in nebulous form before his eyes. He sees the River Styx. Venus, Urania, and Endymion sail in a boat down the stream, while the crown which Venus wears casts a brilliant starry sheen over the gloomy waves and shores. He sees Amor and Psyche blissfully floating by in lofty Kassiopeia and proud Orion; he descries Adam and Alma gliding past, all closely wrapped in the purifying flames of purgatory; he beholds Alexander kneeling before Kalanus, and the slender, refined form of the Indian, with the white bandage about his brow, and singing his swan’s song, ascend from the funeral pyre through the smoke and the black clouds to Brahma.

“At the feet of her, his goddess,
Happy now he sits and dreams;
All aglow death’s kingdom seems,”

while his works survive him and render his name immortal.

There was always a great deal of sky in his paintings, but his name will be most enduringly united with that part of his pictures which portrays earth and the earthly.


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  1. Trackback: Søren Kierkegaard and Georg Brandes – Kierkegaard and Christianity

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