Godfather’s Picture-Book

Godfather’s Picture-Book – Illustration

By Hans Christian Andersen (1868)

Godfather could tell stories, ever so many and ever so long ; he could cut out paper figures and draw pictures, and when it came near Christmas, he would bring out a copy-book, with clean white pages ; on this he pasted pictures, taken out of books and newspapers ; if he had not enough for the story he wished to tell, he drew them himself. When I was little, I got several such picturebooks, but the loveliest of them all was the one from ‘ the memorable year when Copenhagen got gas in place of the old oil-lamps’, and that was set down on the first page.

‘ Great care must be taken of this book,’ said Father and Mother ; it must only be brought out on grand occasions.’

Yet Godfather had written on the cover :

Though the book be torn, it is hardly a crime ;

Other young friends have done worse in their tune.

Most delightful it was when Godfather himself showed the book, read the verses and the other inscriptions, and told so many things besides ; then the story became a real story.

On the first page there was a picture cut out of ‘ The Flying Post ‘, in which one saw Copenhagen with its Round Tower, and Our Lady’s Church; to the left of this was pasted an old lantern, on which was written ‘ Train-oil ‘, to the right was a chandelier on it was written ‘ Gas ‘.

‘See, that is the placard,’ said Godfather; ‘that is the prologue to the story you are going to hear. It could also be given as a whole play, if one could have acted it : ” Train-oil and Gas, or the Life and Doings of Copenhagen.” That is a very good title ! At the foot of “the page there is still another little picture ; it is not so easy to understand, so I shall explain it. That is a Death-horse. He ought to have come only at the end of the book, but he has run on ahead to say, that neither the beginning, the middle, nor the end is any good ; he could have done it better himself if he could have done it at all. The Deathhorse, I must tell you, stands during the day tethered to the newspaper ; but in the evening he slips out and posts himself outside the poet’s door and neighs, so that the man inside may die instantly ; but he does not die if there is any real life in him. The Death-horse is nearly always a poor creature who cannot understand himself, and cannot get a livelihood ; he must get air and food by going about and neighing. I am convinced that he thinks nothing of Godfather’s picture-book, but for all that it may well be worth the paper it is written on.

Now, that is the first page of the book ; that is the placard.

It was just the last evening on which the old oil-lamps were lighted ; the town had got gas, and it shone so that the old lamps seemed to be quite lost in it.

‘I was in the street myself that evening,’ said Godfather. ‘ The people walked up and down to look at the old and the new lighting. There were many people, and twice as many legs as heads. The watchmen stood about gloomily ; they did not know when they might be dismissed, like the lamps ; these themselves thought so far back they dared not think forward. They remembered so much from the quiet evenings and the dark nights. I leaned up against a lamp-post,’ said Godfather ; ‘ there was a sputtering in the oil and the wick ; I could hear what the lamp said, and you shall also hear it.

‘ ” We have done what we could,” said the lamp, ” we have been sufficient for our time, have lighted up for joy and for sorrow ; we have lived through many remarkable things ; we have, so to speak, been the night-eyes of Copenhagen. Let new lights now take our place and undertake our office ; but how many years they may shine, and what they may light up, remains to be seen ! They certainly shine a little stronger than we old ones, but that is nothing, when one is made like a gas -chandelier, and has such connexions, as they have, the one pours into the other ! They have pipes in all directions and can get new strength in the town and outside of the town ! But each one of us oil-lamps shines by what he has in himself and not by family relationship. We and our forefathers have shone for Copenhagen from immeasurably ancient times, far far back. But as this is now the last evening that we stand and shine in the second rank, so to speak, here in the street along with you, ye shining comrades, we will not sulk and be envious ; no, far from it, we will be glad and good-natured. We are the old sentinels, who are relieved by new-fashioned guards in better uniforms than ours. We will tell you what our family, right up to the great- great-great-grandmother lantern, has seen and experienced the whole of Copenhagen’s history. May you and your successors, right down to the last gas-chandelier, experience and be able to tell as remarkable things as we, when one day you get your discharge ! and you will get it, you may be prepared for that. Men are sure to find a stronger light than gas. I have heard a student say that it is hinted that they will yet burn sea-water ! ” The wick sputtered when the lamp said these words ; just as if it had water in it already.’

Godfather listened closely, thought it over and considered that it was an excellent idea of the old lantern, on this evening of transition from oil to gas, to recount and display the whole of the history of Copenhagen. ‘ A good idea must not be let slip,’ said Godfather ; I seized it directly, went home and made this picture-book for you, it goes still farther back in time than the lamps could go.

Here is the book ; here is the history :

” Copenhagen’s Live and Doings ”

it begins with pitch-darkness, a coal-black page that is the Dark Ages.

‘ Now we shall turn the page ! ‘ said Godfather. Do you see the pictures ? Only the wild sea and the blustering north-east wind ; it is driving heavy ice-floes along ; there is no one out to sail on them except great stone-blocks, which rolled down on to the ice from the mountains of Norway. The north wind blows the ice away ; he means to show the German mountains what boulders are found up in the north. The ice-fleet is already down in the Sound, off the coast of Zealand, where Copenhagen now lies ; but there was no Copenhagen at that time. There were great sand-banks under the water, against one of these the ice-floes with the big boulders struck ; the whole of the ice-fleet stuck fast, the north-east wind could not float them again, and so he grew as mad as he could be, and pronounced a curse upon the sand- bank, ” the thieves’ ground,” as he called it ; and he swore that if it ever lifted itself above the surface of the sea, thieves and robbers should come there, gallows and wheel should be raised on it.

‘ But whilst he cursed and swore in this manner, the sun broke forth, and in its beams there swayed and swung bright and gentle spirits, children of light ; they danced along over the chilling ice-floes, and melted them, and the great boulders sank down to the sandy bottom.

” Sun -vermin ! ” said the north wind, ” is that comradeship and kinship ? I shall remember and revenge that. Now I pronounce a curse ! ”

” We pronounce a blessing ! ” sang the children of light. ”The sand-bank shall rise and we will protect it! Truth and goodness and beauty shall dwell there ! ”

” Stuff and nonsense ! ” said the north-east wind.

‘Of all this the lantern had nothing to tell,’ said Godfather, ‘ but I knew it, and it is of great importance for the life and doings of Copenhagen.

‘ Now we shall turn the page ! ‘ said Godfather. ‘ Years have passed, the sand-bank has lifted itself ; a sea-bird has settled on the biggest stone, which jutted out of the water. You can see it in the picture. Years and years have passed. The sea threw up dead fish on the sand. The tough lymegrass sprang up, withered, rotted, and enriched the ground ; then came several different kinds of grasses and plants ; the bank became a green island. The Vikings landed there.

There was level ground for fighting, and good anchorage beside the island off the coast of Zealand.

‘ The first oil-lamp was kindled, I believe, to cook fish over, and there were fish in plenty. The herrings swam in great shoals through the Sound ; it was hard to push a boat through them ; they flashed in the water as if there was lightning down there, they shone in the depths like the Northern Lights. The Sound had wealth of fish, and so houses were built on the coast of Zealand ; the walls were of oak and the roofs of bark ; there were trees enough for the purpose. Ships came into the harbour ; the oil-lantern hung from the swaying ropes ; the north-east wind blew and sang ” U-hu-u.” If a lantern shone on the island, it was a thieves’ lantern. Smugglers and thieves exercised their trade on ” Thieves’ Island “.

‘ ” I believe that all the evil that I wished will grow,” said the north-east wind. ” Soon will come the tree, of which I can shake the fruit.”

‘ And here stands the tree,’ said Godfather. ‘ Do you see the gallows on Thieves’ Island ? Robbers and murderers hang there in iron chains, exactly as they hung at that time. The wind blew so that the long skeletons rattled, but the moon shone down on them very serenely, as it now shines on a rustic dance. The sun also shone down serenely, crumbling away the dangling skeletons, and from the sunbeams the children of light sang ; ” We know it ! we know it ! it shall yet be beautiful here in the time to come ! Here it will be good and splendid ! ”

‘ ” Cackle ! cackle ! ” said the north-east wind.

‘ Now we turn over the page ! ‘ said Godfather.

‘ The bells were ringing in the town of Roskilde, where Bishop Absalon lived ; he could both read his Bible and swing his sword ; he had power and will ; the busy fishermen at the harbour whose town was growing and was now a market-place, Absalon wished to protect these from assault. He sprinkled the unhallowed ground with holy water ; Thieves’ Island got a mark of honour. Masons and carpenters set to work on it ; a building grew up at the Bishop’s command. The sunbeams kissed the red walls as they rose. There stood Axel’s house :

The castle with its towers high hi air,

Its balconies and many a noble stair.

Boo ! hoo !

The north-east wind in fury blew. But the stronghold stood unyielding all the same.

And outside it stood ” The Haven”, the merchants’ harbour:

Mermaid’s bower ‘mid gleaming lakes, Built in groves of green.

‘The foreigners came there and bought the wealth of fish, built booths and houses, with bladders for windowpanes glass was too dear ; then came warehouses with gables and windlasses. Look! inside the shops sit the old bachelors ; they dare not marry ; they trade in ginger and pepper, the pepper-lads.

‘ The north-east wind blows through the streets and lanes, sends the dust flying, and tears a thatched roof off. Cows and pigs walk about in the street-ditch.

” I shall cow and subdue them,” says the north-east wind ; ” whistle round the houses and round Axel’s house. I cannot miss it ! They call it ‘ Gallows’ Castle on Thieves’ Island ‘.” ‘

And Godfather showed a picture of it, which he himself had drawn. On the walls were stake after stake, and on every one sat the head of a captured pirate, and showed the teeth.

‘ That really happened,’ said Godfather ; ‘ and it is worth knowing about.

Bishop Absalon was in his bath-room, and heard through the thin walls the arrival of a ship of freebooters. At once he sprang out of the bath and into his ship, blew his horn, and his crew came. The arrows flew into the backs of the robbers, who rowed hard to get away. The arrows fastened themselves in their hands, and there was no time to tear them out. Bishop Absalon caught every living soul and cut his head off, and every head was set up on the outer wall of the castle. The north-east wind blew with swollen cheeks with bad weather in his jaw, as the sailors say.

” Here I will stretch myself out,” said the wind ; ” here I will lie down and look at the whole affair.”

‘ It rested for hours, it blew for days ; years went past.

The watchman came out on the castle tower ; he looked to the east, to the west, to the south, and the north. There you have it in the picture,’ said Godfather, and showed it. ‘ You see him there, but what he saw I shall tell you.

‘ From Steileborg’s wall there is open water right out to Koge Bay, and broad is the channel over to Zealand’s coast. In front of Serritslev and Salberg commons, where the large villages lie, grows up more and more the new town with gabled timber houses. There are whole streets for shoemakers and tailors, for grocers and ale -sellers ; there is a market-place, there is a guild-hall, and close by the shore, where once there was an island, stands the splendid Church of St. Nicholas. It has a tower and a spire, immensely high ; how it reflects itself in the clear water !

Not far from this stands the Church of Our Lady, where masses are said and sung, incense gives out its odour, and wax-tapers burn. The merchants’ haven is now the Bishop’s town ; the Bishop of Roskilde rules and reigns there.

‘ Bishop Erlandsen sits in Axel’s house. There is cooking in the kitchen, there is serving of ale and claret, there is the sound of fiddles and kettledrums. Candles and lamps burn, the castle shines, as if it were a lantern for the whole country and kingdom. The north-east wind blows round the tower and walls, but they stand firm enough. The north-east wind blows round the western fortifications of the town only an old wooden barricade, but it holds out well. Outside of it stands Christopher the First, the King of Denmark. The rebels have beaten him at Skelskör ; he seeks shelter in the Bishop’s town.

‘ The wind whistles, and says like the Bishop, ” Keep outside ! keep outside ! The gate is shut for thee ! ”

‘ It is a time of trouble ; these are dismal days ; every man will have his own way. The Holstein banner waves from the castle tower. There is want and woe ; it is the night of anguish. Strife is in the land, and the Black Death; pitch-dark night but then came Waldemar. The Bishop’s town is now the King’s town ; it has gabled houses and narrow streets ; it has watchmen, and a town-hall ; it has a fixed gallows by the west-port. None but townsmen can be hanged on it : one must be a citizen to be able to dangle there, to come up so high as to see Koge and the hens of Köge.

” That is a lovely gallows,” says the north-east wind ; ” the beautiful grows ! ” and so it whistled and blew. From Germany blew trouble and want.

The Hansa merchants came, said Godfather ; ‘ they came from warehouse and counter, the rich traders from Rostock, Lübeck, and Bremen ; they wanted to snatch up more than the golden goose from Waldemar’s Tower ; they had more power in the town of the Danish King than the Danish King himself ; they came with armed ships, and no one was prepared. King Eric had no mind either to fight with his German kinsfolk ; they were so many and so strong. So King Eric and all his courtiers hurried out at the west -port to the town of Sorö, to the quiet lake and the green woods, to the song of love and the goblet’s clang.

But one remained behind in Copenhagen, a kingly heart, a kingly mind. Do you see the picture here, the young woman, so fine and tender, with sea-blue eyes and flaxen hair ? it is Denmark’s Queen, Philippa, the English Princess. She stayed in the distracted city, where in the narrow lanes and streets with the steep stairs, sheds, and lath-and -plaster shops, townspeople swarmed and knew not what to do. She has the heart and courage of a man. She summons burghers and peasants, inspires and encourages them. They rig the ships and garrison the blockhouses ; they bang away with the carbines ; there is fire and smoke, there is lightness of heart ; our Lord will not give up Denmark ! and the sun shines into all hearts, it beams out of all eyes in the gladness of victory. Blessed be Philippa ! and blessed she is in the hut and in the house, and in the castle of the King, where she looks after the wounded and the sick. I have cut a wreath and put it round the picture here,’ said Godfather. ‘ Blessed be Queen Philippa ! ‘

Now we spring years forward ! ‘ said Godfather, ‘ and Copenhagen springs with us. King Christian the First has been in Rome, has been blessed by the Pope, and greeted with honour and homage on the long journey. He is building here a hall of red brick ; learning shall grow there, and display itself in Latin. The poor man’s children from the plough or workshop can come there too, can live upon alms, Ccan attain to the long black gown and sing before the citizens’ doors.

Close to the hall of learning, where all is in Latin, lies a little house ; in it Danish rules, both in language and in customs. There is ale-porridge for breakfast, and dinner is at ten o’clock in the forenoon. The sun- shines in through the small panes on cupboards and bookcases ; in the latter lie written treasures, Master Mikkel’s ” Rosary ” and ” Godly Comedies “, Henrik Harpestreng’s ” Leech-book “, and Denmark’s ” Rhyming Chronicle ” by Brother Niels of Sorö. ” Every man of breeding ought to know these,” says the master of the house, and he is the man to make them known. He is Denmark’s first printer, the Dutchman, Gotfred van Gehmen. He practises the blessed black art of book-printing.

‘ And books come into the King’s castle, and into the houses of the burghers. Proverbs and songs get eternal life. Things which men dare not say in sorrow and pleasure are sung by the Bird of Popular Song, darkly and yet clearly ; it flies so free, it flies so wide, through the common sitting-room, through the knightly castle ; it sits like a falcon on the hand of the noble lady and twitters ; it steals in like a little mouse, and squeaks in the dungeon to the enslaved peasant.

” It is all mere words ! ” says the sharp north-east wind.

” It is spring-time ! ” say the sunbeams. ” See how the green buds are peeping ! ”

‘ Now we will go forward in our picture-book ! ‘ said Godfather.

‘ How Copenhagen glitters ! There are tournaments and sports ; there are splendid processions ; look at the gallant knights in armour, at the noble ladies in silk and gold ! King Hans is giving his daughter Elizabeth to the Elector of Brandenburg ; how young she is, and how happy ! she treads on velvet ; there is a future in her thoughts, a life of household happiness. Close beside her stands her royal brother, Prince Christian, with the melancholy eyes and the hot, surging blood. He is dear to the townsfolk ; he knows their burdens ; he has the poor man’s future in his thoughts. God alone decides our fortunes !

‘ Now we will go on with the picture-book, said Godfather. ‘ Sharp blows the wind, and sings about the sharp sword, about the heavy time of unrest.

‘ It is an icy-cold day in the middle of April. Why is the crowd thronging outside the castle, and in front of the old tolbooth, where the King’s ship lies with its sails and flags ? There are people in the windows and on the roofs. There is sorrow and affliction, expectancy, and anxiety. They look towards the castle, where formerly there were torch-dances in the gilded halls, now so still and empty; they look at the window-balcony, from which King Christian so often looked out over the drawbridge, and along the narrow street, to his Dovelet, the little Dutch girl he brought from the town of Bergen. The shutters are closed, the crowd looks towards the castle ; now the gate is opening, the drawbridge is being let down. King Christian comes with his faithful wife Elizabeth ; she will not forsake her royal lord, now when he is so hard beset.

‘ There was fire in his blood, there was fire in his thoughts ; he wished to break with the olden times, to break the peasants’ yoke, to be good to the burghers, to cut the wings of ” the greedy hawks ” ; but they were too many for him. He departs from his country and kingdom, to win friends and kinsfolk for himself abroad. His wife and faithful men go with him ; every eye is wet now in the hour of parting.

‘ Voices blend themselves in the song of time, against him and for him ; a threefold choir. Hear the words of the nobles ; they are written and printed :

” Woe to thee, Christian the Bad ! the blood poured out on Stockholm’s market-place cries aloud and curses thee ! ”

And the monk’s shout utters the same sentence :

” Be thou cast off by God and by us ! Thou hast called hither the Lutheran doctrine ; thou hast given it church and pulpit, and let the tongue of the Devil speak. Woe to thee, Christian the Bad ! ”

1 But peasants and burghers weep so bitterly. ” Christian, beloved of the people ! No longer shall the peasant be sold like cattle, no longer be bartered away for a hound ! That law is thy witness I ”

‘ But the words of the poor man are like chaff before the wind.

‘ Now the ship sails past the castle, and the burghers run upon the ramparts, so that they may once more see the royal galley sail.

” The time is long, the time is hard ; trust not in friends or kinsmen.”

‘ Uncle Frederick in the Castle of Kiel would like to be King of Denmark. King Frederick lies before Copenhagen ; do you see the picture here, ” the faithful Copenhagen ? ” Round about it are coal-black clouds, with picture on picture ; only look at each of them ! It is a resounding picture ; it still resounds in song and story : the heavy, hard, and bitter time in the course of the years.

How went it with King Christian, that wandering bird ? The birds have sung about it, and they fly far, over land and sea. The stork came early in the spring, from the south over the German lands ; it has seen what will now be told.

” I saw the fugitive King Christian driving on a heathergrown moor ; there met him a wretched car, drawn by one horse ; in it sat a woman, King Christian’s sister, the Margravine of Brandenburg faithful to the Lutheran religion, she had been driven away by her husband. On the dark heath met the exiled children of a king. The time is hard, the time is long ; trust not in friend or in kin.”

‘ The swallow came from Sönderborg Castle with a doleful song : ” King Christian is betrayed. He sits there in the dungeon-tower deep as a well ; his heavy steps wear tracks in the stone floor, his fingers leave their marks in the hard marble.”

What sorrow ever found such vent As in that furrowed stone ?

‘ The fish-eagle came from the rolling sea ! it is open and free ; a ship flies over it ; it is the brave Sören Norby from Fyn. Fortune is with him but fortune is changeful, like wind and weather.

‘ In Jutland and Fyn the ravens and crows scream : ” We are out for spoil. It is grand ; it is grand ! Here lie bodies of horses, and of men as well.” It is a time of trouble ; it is the Count of Oldenburg’s war. The peasant seized his club and the townsman his knife, and shouted loudly :

” We shall kill the wolves and leave no cub of them alive.” Clouds of smoke rise from the burning towns.

‘ King Christian is a prisoner in Sönderborg Castle ; he cannot escape, or see Copenhagen and its bitter distress. On the North Common stands Christian III, where his father stood before. In the town is despair; famine is there, and plague.

‘ Up against the church wall sits an emaciated woman in rags ; she is a corpse ; two living children lie on her lap and suck blood from the dead breast.

Courage has fallen, resistance falls. Oh, thou faithful Copenhagen !

‘ Fanfares are blown. Listen to the drums and trumpets ! In rich dresses of silk and velvet, and with waving plumes, come the noble lords on gold-caparisoned horses ; they ride to the old market. Is there a joust or tournament after the usual custom ? Burghers and peasants in their best array are flocking thither. What is there to see ? Has a bonfire been made to burn popish images ? or does the hangman stand there, as he stood at Slaghoek’s death fire ? The King, the ruler of the land, is Lutheran, and this shall now be solemnly proclaimed.

‘ High and mighty ladies and noble maidens sit with high collars and pearls in their caps, behind the open windows, and see all the show. On an outspread carpet, under a canopy, sit the councillors of state in antique dress, near the King’s throne. The King is silent. Now his will is proclaimed in the Danish tongue, the will of the statecouncil. Burghers and peasants receive words of stern rebuke for the opposition they have shown to the high nobility. The burgher is humbled ; the peasant becomes a thrall. Now words of condemnation are uttered against the bishops of the land. Their power is past. All the property of the church and cloisters is transferred to the King and the nobles.

‘ Haughtiness and hate are there, pomp and misery.

‘ The time of change has heavy clouds, but also sunshine ; it shone now in the hall of learning, in the student’s home, and names shine out from it right on to our time. Hans Tausen, the son of a poor smith in Fyn :

It was the little lad from Birkende who came,

His name flew over Denmark, so widely spread his fame ;

A Danish Martin Luther, who drew the Gospel sword,

And gained a victory for truth and for the Word.

‘ There also shines the name of Petrus Palladius ; so it is in Latin, but in Danish it is Peter Plade, the Bishop of Roskilde, also the son of a poor smith in Jutland. Among the names of noblemen shines that of Hans Friis, the Chancellor of the kingdom. He seated the students at his table, and looked after their wants, and those of the schoolboys too. And one name before all others is greeted with hurrahs and song :

While but a single student here

At learning’s desk is seated,

So long shall good King Christian’s name

With loud Hurrahs be greeted.

Sunbeams came amongst the heavy clouds in that time of change.

Now we turn the page.

‘ What whistles and sings in ” The Great Belt ” under the coast of Samsö ? From the sea rises a mermaid, with seagreen hair ; she tells the future to the peasant. A prince shall be born, who will become a king, great and powerful.

‘ In the fields, under the blossoming white-thorn, he was born. His name now blooms in song and story, in the knightly halls and castles round about. The exchange sprang up with tower and spire ; Rosenberg lifted itself and looked far out over the ramparts ; the students themselves got a house of their own, and close beside it stood and still points to Heaven the ” Round Tower “, which looks toward the island of Hveen where Uranienborg once stood. Its golden domes glittered in the moonlight, and mermaids sang of the master there whom kings and sages visited, the sage of noble blood, Tycho Brahe. He raised the name of Denmark so high, that along with the stars of heaven it was known in all the cultured lands of the world. And Denmark spurned him away from her.

He sang for comfort in his grief :

” Is not Heaven everywhere ?

What more then do I require ! ”

‘His song lives in the hearts of the people, like the mermaid’s song about Christian the Fourth.

‘ Now comes a page which you must look at in earnest,’ said Godfather ; ‘ there is picture after picture, as there is verse after verse in the old ballads. It is a song, so joyful in its beginning, so sorrowful in its ending.

A king’s child dances in the castle of the King ; how charming she is to see ! She sits on the lap of Christian the Fourth, his beloved daughter Eleonora. She grows in womanly virtues and graces. The foremost man amongst the nobles, Corfitz Ulfeldt, is her bridegroom. She is still a child, and still gets whippings from her stern governess ; she complains to her sweetheart, and with good right too. How clever she is, and cultured and learned ; she knows Latin and Greek, sings Italian to her lute, and is able to talk about the Pope and Luther.

‘ King Christian lies in the chapel- vault in Roskilde Cathedral, and Eleonora’s brother is King. There is pomp and show in the palace in Copenhagen, there is beauty and wit ; foremost is the Queen herself, Sophia Amalia of Lyneborg. Who can guide her horse so well as she ? Who dances with such dignity as she ? Who talks with such knowledge and cleverness as Denmark’s Queen ? ” Eleonora Christina Ulfeldt ! ” these words were spoken by the French Ambassador ” in beauty and cleverness she surpasses all.”

‘ From the polished dancing-floor of the palace grew the burdock of envy ; it hung fast, it worked itself in and twisted around itself, the scorn of contempt. ” The baseborn creature ! her carriage shall stop at the castle-bridge : where the Queen drives, the lady must walk.” There is a perfect storm of gossip, slander, and lies.

‘ And Ulfeldt takes his wife by the hand in the quietness of the night. He has the keys of the town gates ; he opens one of them, horses wait outside. They ride along the shore, and then sail away to Sweden.

‘ Now we turn the page, even as fortune turns itself for these two.

‘ It is autumn ; the day is short, the night is long ; it is grey and damp, the wind so cold, and rising in strength. It whistles in the leaves of the trees on the rampart, the leaves fly into Peter Oxe’s .courtyard, which stands empty and forsaken by its owners. The wind sweeps out over Christianshaven, round Kai Lykke’s mansion, now a common jail. He himself has been hunted from honour and home ; his scutcheon is broken, his effigy hanged on the highest gallows. Thus is he punished for his wanton thoughtless words about the honoured Queen of the land. Shrilly pipes the wind, and rushes over the open place where the mansion of the Lord High Steward has stood ; only one stone of it is now left ” that I drove as a boulder down here on the floating ice,” whoops the wind. ” The stone stranded where Thieves’ Island has since grown, under my curse, and so it came into the mansion of Lord Ulfeldt, where the lady sang to the sounding lute, read Greek and Latin, and bore herself proudly : now only the stone stands up here with its inscription :


” But where is she now, the stately lady ? Hoo-ee ! hoo-ee ! ” pipes the wind with ear-splitting voice. In the Blue Tower, behind the palace, where the sea-water beats against the slimy walls, there she has already sat for many years. There is more smoke than warmth in the chamber ; the little window is high up under the ceiling. Christian the Fourth’s petted child, the daintiest of maids and matrons, in what discomfort and misery she sits. Memory hangs curtains and tapestries on the smoke – blackened walls of her prison. She remembers the lovely time of her childhood, her father’s soft and beaming features ; she remembers her splendid wedding ; the days of her pride, her hours of hardship in Holland, in England, and in Bornholm.

Naught seems too hard for wedded love to bear,

And faithfulness is not a cause for shame.

Still, he was with her then ; now she is alone, alone for ever. She knows not his grave, no one knows it.

Her faithfulness to him was all her crime.

‘ She sat there for years, long and many, whilst life went on outside. It never stands still, but we will do that for a moment here, and think of her, and the words of the song :

I keep my promise to my husband still

In want and great necessity.

‘ Do you see the picture here ? ‘ said Godfather. ‘ It is winter-time ; the frost makes a bridge between Lolland and Fyn, a bridge for Carl Gustav, who is pushing on irresistibly. There is plundering and burning, fear and want, in the whole land.

‘ The Swedes are lying before Copenhagen. It is biting cold and a blinding snow; but true to their king, and true to themselves, men and women stand ready for the fight. Every tradesman, shopman, student, and schoolmaster is up on the ramparts to defend and guard. There is no fear of the red-hot balls. King Frederick swore he would die in his nest. He rides up there and the queen with him. Courage, discipline, and patriotic zeal are there. Only let the Swede put on his grave-clothes, and crawl forward in the white snow, and try to storm Beams and stones are rolled down on him ; yea, the women come with brewing cauldrons and pour boiling pitch and tar over the storming enemy.

This night king and commoner are one united power. And there is rescue and there is victory. The bells ring ; songs of thanksgiving resound. Burgherfolk, here you won your knightly spurs !

What follows now ? See the picture here. Bishop Svane’s wife comes in a closed carriage. Only the high and mighty nobility may do that. The proud young gentlemen break the carriage down ; the bishop’s wife must walk to the bishop’s house.

Is that the whole story ? Something much bigger shall be broken next the power of pride.

Burgomaster Hans Nansen and Bishop Svane grasp hands for the work, in the name of the Lord. They talk with wisdom and honesty ; it is heard in the church and in the burgher’s house.

One hand-grip of fellowship, and the haven is blocked, the gates are locked, the alarm bell rings.

The power is given to the king alone,. ,he who remained in his nest in the hour of danger ; he governs, he rules over great and small. It is the time of absolute monarchy.

Now we turn the page and the time with it.

” Hallo, hallo, hallo ! ” The plough is laid aside, the heather gets leave to grow, but the hunting is good. ” Hallo, hallo ! ” Listen to the ringing horn, and the baying hounds ! See the huntsmen, see the king himself, King Christian V : he is young and gay. There is merriment in palace and in town. In the halls are wax-lights, in the courtyards are torches, and the streets of the town have got lamps. Everything shines so new ! The new nobility, called in from Germany, barons and counts, get favours and gifts. Nothing passes current now except titles and rank, and the German language.

‘ Then sounds a voice that is thoroughly Danish ; it is the weaver’s son who is now a bishop ; it is the voice of Kingo ; he sings his lovely psalms.

‘ There is another burgher’s son, a vintner’s son ; his thoughts shine forth in law and justice ; his law-book became gold-ground for the king’s name ; it will stand for times to come. That burgher’s son, the mightiest man in the land, gets a coat of arms and enemies with it, and so the sword of the executioner is raised over the head of Griffenfeldt. Then grace is granted, with imprisonment for life. They send him to a rocky islet off the coast of Trondhjem, Munkholm Denmark’s St. Helena.

But the dance goes merrily in the palace hall ; splendour and pomp are there ; there is lively music, and courtiers and ladies dance there.

Now comes the time of Frederick IV !

See the proud ships with the flag of victory ! See the rolling sea ! it can tell of great exploits, of the glories of Denmark. We remember the names, the victorious Sehested and Gyldenlöwe ! We remember Hvitfeldt, who, to save the Danish fleet, blew up his ship, and flew to Heaven with the Danish flag. We think of the time, and the struggle of those days, and the hero who sprang from the Norwegian mountains to the defence of Denmark, Peter Tordenskjold. From the glorious surging sea, his name thunders from coast to coast.

There flashed a lightning through the powder-dust,

A thunder rumbled through the whispering age ;

A tailor-lad sprang from the tailor’s board,

From Norway’s coast sailed out a little sloop,

And over Northern seas there flew again

The Viking spirit, youthful, girt with steel.

Then there came a fresh breeze from Greenland’s coast, a fragrance as from the land of Bethlehem ; it bore tidings of the Gospel light kindled by Hans Egede and his wife.

The half leaf here has therefore a gold ground ; the other half, which betokens sorrow, is ashen-grey with black specks, as if from fire sparks, as if from disease and pestilence.

In Copenhagen the plague is raging. The streets are empty ; the doors are barred, and round about are crosses marked with chalk ; inside is the plague, but where the cross is black, all are dead.

‘ In the night the bodies are carried away, without the tolling-bell ; they take the half -dead from the streets with them ; the army wagons rumble, they are filled with corpses. But from the ale-houses sound the horrid songs of the drunkard and wild shrieks. In drink they seek to forget their bitter distress ; they would forget, and end-end ! Everything comes to an end. Here the page ends with the second time of distress and trial for Copenhagen.

King Frederick IV is still alive ; his hair has grown grey in the course of the years. From the window of the palace he looks out upon the stormy weather ; it is late in the year.

In a little house by the Westgate a boy plays with his ball ; it flies up into the garret. The little one takes a tallow-candle and goes up to search for it ; he sets fire to the little house, and so to the whole street. It flares in the air, so that the clouds shine. The flames increase ! There is food for the fire ; there is hay and straw, bacon and tar, there are piles of firewood for the winter-time, and everything burns. There is weeping and shrieking and great confusion. In the tumult rides the old king, encouraging and commanding. There is blowing up with powder, and pulling down of houses. Now there is fire also in the north quarter, and the churches are burning, St. Peter’s and Our Lady’s. Listen to the bells playing their last tune :

” Turn away thy wrath, Lord God of Mercy ! ”

‘ Only the (i Round Tower ” and the castle are left standing ; round about them are smoking ruins. King Frederick is good to the people ; he comforts and feeds them ; he is with them ; he is the friend of the homeless. Blessed be Frederick IV !

See this page now !

‘See the gilded carriage with footmen round it, with armed riders before and behind it, coming from the castle, where an iron chain is stretched to prevent the people from coming too near. Every plebeian man must go over the square with bare head ; because of this not many are seen there, they avoid the place. There comes one now with downcast eyes, with hat in hand, and he is just the man of that time, whom we name with pride :

His words like a cleansing storin-wind rang

For sunshine in days yet to come ;

And smuggled-in fashions like grasshoppers sprang

In haste to escape and get home.

It is wit and humour in person ; it is Ludwig Holberg. The Danish theatre, the scene of his greatness, has been closed, as if it were the dwelling-place of infamy. All merriment is coffined ; dance, song, and music are forbidden and banished. The dark side of religion is now in power.

“The Danish prince ! ” as his mother called him ; now comes his time with sunshiny weather, with the song of birds, with gladness and gaiety, and true Danish ways.

King Frederick V is king. And the chain is taken away from the square beside the castle ; the Danish theatre is opened again ; there is laughter and pleasure and good humour. And the peasants hold their summer festival. It is a time of gaiety after the time of fast and oppression.

The beautiful thrives, blossoming and bearing fruit in sound, in colour, and in creative art. Hearken to Gretry’s music ! Watch the acting of Londemann ! And Denmark’s queen

loves what is Danish. Louisa of England, beautiful and gentle ; God in his Heaven, bless you ! The sunbeams sing in lively chorus about the queens in the Danish land Philippa, Elizabeth, Louisa !

The earthly parts have long been buried, but the souls live, and the names live. Again, England sends a royal bride, Matilda, so young, and so soon forsaken ! Poets will sing of thee in times to come, of thy youthful heart and time of trial. And song has power, an indescribable power through times and peoples. See the burning of the castle, King Christian’s castle ! They try to save the best they can find. See, the dockyard men are dragging away a basket with silver plate and precious things. It is a great treasure ; but suddenly they see through the open door, where the flames are bright, a bronze bust of King Christian IV. Then they cast away the treasure they are carrying ; his image is much more to them ! that must be saved, however heavy it may be to carry. They know him from Ewald’s song, from Hartmann’s lovely melody.

There is power in the words and the song, and it shall sound even twice as strong for the poor Queen Matilda.

Now we shall turn farther on in our picture-book.

On Ulfeldt’s Place stood the stone of shame ; where is there one on the earth like it ? By the Westgate a column was raised ; how many are there like it on the earth ?

The sunbeams kissed the boulder, which is the foundation under the ” Column of Freedom “. All the church bells rang, and the flags waved ; the people hurrahed for the Crown-Prince Frederick. In the hearts and on the lips of old and young were the names of Bernstorff , Reventlow, Colbjörnson. With beaming eyes and thankful hearts they read the blessed inscription on the column :

” The King has decreed it : Serfdom shall cease ; the agrarian laws shall be set in order and put in force, that the free yeoman may become brave and enlightened, diligent and good, a worthy citizen, and happy ”

‘ What a day of sunshine ! What ‘ a Summer festival ” !

‘ The spirits of light sang : ” The good grows ! The beautiful grows ! Soon the stone on Ulfeldt’s Place will fall, but Freedom’s column shall stand in sunshine, blessed by God, the king, and the people.”

We have a highway old and wide

And to the ends of earth it goes.

‘ The open sea, open for friend or foe ; and the foe was there. It sailed up, the mighty English fleet ; a great power came against a little one. The fight was hard, but the people were brave.

Each stood firm with dauntless breath,

Stood and fought and met his death.

They won the admiration of the foe, and inspired the poets of Denmark. That day of battle is still commemorated with waving flags Denmark’s glorious second of April, the battle-day at the Roadstead.

‘ Years passed. A fleet was seen in Ore Sound. Was it bound for Russia or Denmark ? No one knew, not even on board.

‘ There is a legend in the mouth of the people, that that morning in Ore Sound, when the sealed orders were broken open and read, and instructions given to take the Danish fleet, a young captain stepped forward to his chief, a son of Britain, noble in word and deed : “I swore,” was his word, ” that to my death I would fight for England’s flag in open and honourable fight, but not to overpower the weak.” And with that he sprang overboard !

And so to Copenhagen sailed the fleet.

While far from where they fought the battle stark,

Lay he, the Captain no one knows his name

A corpse sea-cold, hidden by waters dark,

Until he drifted shorewards, and the Swedes,

Beneath the starry sky who cast their nets.

Found him, and bore him in their boat to land,

And – cast the dice to win his epaulettes !

‘ The enemy made for Copenhagen ; the town went up in flames, and we lost our fleet, but not our courage and our faith in God ; He casteth down, but He raiseth up again. Our wounds were healed as in the battles of Valhalla. Copenhagen’s history is rich in consolation.

Our faith has been from times of old

That God is ever Denmark’s friend,

If we hold firm, He too will hold,

And still the sun shine in the end.

‘ And soon the sun shone on the rebuilt city, on the rich cornfields, on the workers’ skill and art ; a blessed summer day of peace, where poetry raised her Fata Morgana so rich in colour, with the coming of Oehlenschläger.

And in science a discovery was made, far greater than that of a goldhorn in olden days, a bridge of gold was found :

A bridge for thought to dart

At all times into other lands and nations.

‘ Hans Christian Oersted wrote his name there. And see ! beside the church by the castle was raised a building to which the poorest man and woman gave gladly their mite.

‘ You remember from the first part of the picture-book,’ said Godfather, ‘ the old stone-blocks, which rolled down from the mountains of Norway, and were carried down here on the ice ; they are lifted again from the sandy bottom at Thorwaldsen’s bidding, in marble beauty, lovely to see ! Remember what I have shown you and what I have told you ! The sand -bank in the sea raised itself up and became a breakwater for the harbour, bore Axel’s house, bore the bishop’s mansion and the king’s castle, and now it bears the temple of the beautiful. The words of the curse have blown away, but what the children of the sunlight sang in their gladness, about the coming time, has been fulfilled. So many storms have gone past, but may come again and will again pass. The true and the good and the beautiful have the victory.

And with this the picture-book is finished ; but not the history of Copenhagen far from it. Who knows what you yourself may yet live to see ! It has often looked black and blown a gale, but the sunshine is not yet blown away that remains ; and stronger yet than the strongest sunshine is God ! Our Lord reigns over more than Copenhagen.’

So said Godfather, and gave me the book. His eyes shone, he was so certain of the thing. And I took the book so gladly, so proudly, and so carefully, just as I lately carried my little sister for the first time..

And Godfather said : ‘ You are quite welcome to show your picture-book to one or another ; you may also say that I have made, pasted, and drawn the whole work. But it is a matter of life or death, that they know at once from where I have got the idea of it. You know it, so tell it them ! The idea is due to the old oil-lamps, who just, on the last evening they burned, showed for the town’s gas-lights like a Fata Morgana, all that had been seen from the time the first lamp was lighted at the harbour, till this evening when Copenhagen was lighted both with oil and gas.

‘ You may show the book to whom you please, that is to say, to people with kind eyes and friendly hearts ; but if a death-horse should come, then close GODFATHER’S PICTURE-BOOK.’

  Indeks over H.C. Andersens eventyr — Index of Hans Christian Andersen Fairy tales