A Picture from the Fortress Wall
By Hans Christian Andersen (1852)
It is autumn : we stand on the fortress wall, and look out over the sea ; we look at the numerous ships, and at the Swedish coast on the other side of the Sound, which rises high in the evening glow ; behind us the rampart goes steeply down ; mighty trees surround us, the yellow leaves flutter down from the branches.
Down there where the sentinel goes, stand gloomy houses fenced in with palisades ; inside these it is very narrow and dismal, but still more dismal is it behind the grated loopholes in the wall, for there sit the prisoners, the worst criminals.
A ray of the sinking sun shoots into the bare cell of one of the captives. The sun shines upon the good and the evil. The dark stubborn criminal throws an impatient look at the cold ray. A little bird flies towards the grating. The bird twitters to the wicked as to the just.
He only utters his short tweet ! tweet ! ‘ but he perches upon the grating, claps his wings, pecks a feather from one of them, puffs himself out, and sets his feathers on end on his neck and breast ; and the bad chained man looks at him : a milder expression comes into the criminal’s hard face ; in his breast there swells up a thought a thought he himself cannot rightly analyse ; but the thought has to do with the sunbeam, with the scent of violets which grow luxuriantly in spring at the foot of the wall.
Now the horns of the hunters sound merry and full. The little bird flies away from the prisoner’s grating ; the sunbeam vanishes, and again it is dark in the room, and dark in the heart of the bad man;but still the sun has shone into that heart, and the twittering of the bird has touched it !
Sound on, ye glorious strains of the hunting-horns ! The evening is mild, the sea is smooth as a mirror and calm.