The Snowdrop or Summer-Geck
By Hans Christian Andersen (1866)
It was winter-time ; the air was cold, the wind sharp ;but indoors it was snug and warm. Indoors lay the flower ; it lay in its bulb under the earth and the snow.
One day rain fell ; the drops trickled through the snowcoverlet, down into the ground, touched the flower-bulb, and told about the bright world up above ; soon a sunbeam, fine and pointed, pierced its way through the snow, down to the bulb, and tapped on it.
‘ Come in ! ‘ said the flower.
‘ I can’t,’ said the sunbeam, ‘ I am not strong enough to open the door ; I shall be strong when summer comes.’
‘When will it be summer ? ‘ asked the flower, and repeated it every time a new sunbeam pierced down to it. But it was a long time till summer : the snow still lay on the ground, and every night ice formed on the water.
‘ How long it is in coming ! How long it is ! ‘ said the flower ; ‘ I feel a prickling and tingling, I must stretch myself, I must stir myself, I must open up, I must get out and nod good morning to the summer ; that will be a happy time ! ‘
And the flower stretched itself and strained itself inside against the thin shell, which the water outside had softened, which the snow and the earth had warmed, and the sunbeam had tapped upon ; it shot out under the snow, with its whitey-green bud on its green stalk, with narrow, thick leaves, which seemed trying to shelter it. The snow was cold, but permeated with light and easy to push through ; and here the sunbeams came with greater strength than before.
‘Welcome ! welcome ! ‘ sang every sunbeam, and the flower raised itself above the snow, out into the world of light. The sunbeams patted and kissed it, so that it opened itself completely, white as snow, and adorned with green stripes. It bowed its head in gladness and humility.
‘ Beautiful flower,’ sang the sunbeams, ‘ how fresh and pure thou art ! Thou art the first ; thou art the only one ! Thou art our darling ! Thou ringest in summer, lovely summer, over town and field ! All the snow shall melt ! the cold winds shall be chased away ! we shall rule ! Everything will become green ! And then thou wilt have company, lilacs, and laburnum, and last of all the roses ; but thou art the first, so fine and pure ! ‘
It was a great delight. It seemed as if the air was music, as if the beams of light penetrated into its leaves and stalk. There it stood, so fine and fragile, and yet so strong, in its young beauty ; it stood there in its white kirtle with green ribbons, and praised the summer. But it was far from summer-time, clouds hid the sun, and sharp winds blew upon the flowers.
‘Thou art come a little too early,’ said Wind and Weather ; ‘ we still have power, and that thou shalt feel and submit to. Thou shouldst have kept indoors, not run out to make a show. It is not time yet ! ‘
It was biting cold ! The days which came, brought not a single sunbeam ; it was weather to freeze to pieces in, for such a little delicate flower. But there was more strength in it than it knew of ; it was strong in joy and faith in the summer, which must come, which was foretold to it by its own deep longing, and confirmed by the warm sunshine ; and so it stood with confident hope, in its white dress, in the white snow, bowing its head, when the snow-flakes fell heavy and thick, whilst the icy winds swept over it.
‘ Thou wilt be broken ! ‘ said they, ‘ wither and freeze : what didst thou seek out here ! Why wert thou lured abroad ! the sunbeam has fooled thee ! Now canst thou enjoy thyself, thou summer-geek ? ‘
‘ Summer-geek ! ‘ echoed in the cold morning hours.
‘ Summer-geek ! ‘ shouted some children who came down into the garden, ‘ there stands one so pretty, so beautiful, the first, the only one ! ‘
And these words did the flower so much good ; they were words like warm sunbeams. The flower did not even notice in its gladness that it was being plucked : it lay in a child’s hand, was kissed by a child’s lips, was brought into a warm room, gazed at by kind eyes, and put in water, so strengthening, so enlivening. The flower believed that it was come right into summer, all at once.
The daughter of the house, a pretty little girl, was just confirmed ; she had a dear friend, and he was also just confirmed. ‘ He shall be my summer-geek,’ said she ; so she took the fragile little flower, laid it in a piece of scented paper, on which were written verses, verses about the flower. Yes, it was all in the verses, and it was made up as a letter ; the flower was laid inside, and it was all dark about it, as dark as when it lay in the bulb. The flower went on a journey, lay in the post-bag, was pressed and squeezed, and that was not pleasant, but it came to an end at last.
The journey was over, the letter was opened and read by the dear friend ; he was so delighted he kissed the flower, and laid it, with the verses around it, in a drawer, in which were many delightful letters, but all without a flower ; this was the first, the only one, as the sunbeams had called it, and that was very pleasant to think about. It got a long time to think about it, it thought whilst the summer passed, and the long winter passed, and it was summer once more ; then it was brought out again. But this time the young man was not at all delighted ; he gripped the paper hard and threw away the verses, so that the flower fell on the floor ; it had become flat and withered, but it should not have been thrown on the floor for all that ; still it was better lying there than on the fire, where the letter and verses were blazing. What had happened ? What so often happens. The flower had fooled him ; it was a jest, the maiden had fooled him, and that was no jest ; she had chosen another sweetheart in mid-summer. In the morning, the sun shone in on the little flattened summer-geek, which looked as if it were painted on the floor. The girl who was sweeping took it up and put it in one of the books on the table ; she thought it had fallen out, when she was clearing up and putting things in order. And so the flower lay again amongst verses, printed verses, and they are grander than written ones ; at least more is spent upon them.
Years passed away, and the book stood on the shelf. At length it was taken down, opened and read ; it was a good book, songs and poems by the Danish poet, Ambrosius Stub, who is well worth knowing. And the man who read the book, turned the page. ‘ Here is a flower ! ‘ said he, ‘a summer- geek ! not without some meaning does it lie here. Poor Ambrosius Stub ! he was also a summer-geek, a befooled poet ! he was too early in his time ; and so he got sleet and sharp winds, and went his rounds amongst the gentlemen of Fyen, like the flower in the flower-glass, the flower in the verses. A summergeek, a winter-fool, all jest and foolery, and yet the first, the only, the youthfully fresh Danish poet. Yes, lie as a mark in the book, little summer-geek 1 Thou art laid there with some meaning.’
And so the summer-geek was laid in the book again, and felt itself both honoured and delighted with the knowledge that it was a mark in the lovely song-book, and that the one who had first sung and written about it, had also been a summer-geek, had been befooled in the winter. Of course the flower understood this in its own way, just as we understand anything in our own way.
This is the story of the summer-geek.