O. T. - A DANISH ROMANCE
O. T. - A DANISH ROMANCE
HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN
"Quod felix faustumque sit!"
There is a happiness which no poet has yet properly sung which no
lady-reader let her be ever so amiable has experienced or ever
will experience in this world. This is a condition of happiness
which alone belongs to the male sex and even then alone to the
elect. It is a moment of life which seizes upon our feelings
our minds our whole being. Tears have been shed by the innocent
sleepless nights been passed during which the pious mother the
loving sister have put up prayers to God for this critical moment
in the life of the son or the brother.
Happy moment which no woman let her be ever so good so
beautiful or intellectual can experience--that of becoming a
student or to describe it by a more usual term the passing of
the first examination!
The cadet who becomes an officer the scholar who becomes an
academical burgher the apprentice who becomes a journeyman all
know in a greater or less degree this loosening of the wings
this bounding over the limits of maturity into the lists of
philosophy. We all strive after a wider field and rush thither
like the stream which at length loses itself in the ocean.
Then for the first time does the youthful soul rightly feel her
freedom and therefore feels it doubly; the soul struggles for
activity she comprehends her individuality; it has been proved and
not found too light; she is still in possession of the dreams of
childhood which have not yet proved delusive. Not even the joy of
love not the enthusiasm for art and science so thrills through
all the nerves as the words "Now am I a student!"
This spring-day of life on which the ice-covering of the school is
broken when the tree of Hope puts forth its buds and the sun of
Freedom shines falls with us as is well known in the month of
October just when Nature loses her foliage when the evenings
begin to grow darker and when heavy winter-clouds draw together
as though they would say to youth--"Your spring the birth of the
examination is only a dream! even now does your life become
earnest!" But our happy youths think not of these things neither
will we be joyous with the gay and pay a visit to their circle. In
such a one our story takes its commencement.
"At last we separate:
To Jutland one to Funen others go;
And still the quick thought comes
--A day so bright so full of fun
Never again on us shall rise."--CARL BAGGER.
It was in October of the year 1829. Examen artium had been passed
through. Several young students were assembled in the evening at
the abode of one of their comrades a young Copenhagener of
eighteen whose parents were giving him and his new friends a
banquet in honor of the examination. The mother and sister had
arranged everything in the nicest manner the father had given
excellent wine out of the cellar and the student himself here the
rex convivii had provided tobacco genuine Oronoko-canaster. With
regard to Latin the invitation--which was of course composed in
Latin--informed the guests that each should bring his own.
The company consisting of one and twenty persons--and these were
only the most intimate friends--was already assembled. About one
third of the friends were from the provinces the remainder out of
"Old Father Homer shall stand in the middle of the table!" said one
of the liveliest guests whilst he took down from the stove a
plaster bust and placed it upon the covered table.
"Yes certainly he will have drunk as much as the other poets!"
said an older one. "Give me one of thy exercise-books Ludwig! I
will cut him out a wreath of vine-leaves since we have no roses
and since I cannot cut out any."
"I have no libation!" cried a third--"Favete linguis." And he
sprinkled a small quantity of salt from the point of a knife upon
the bust at the same time raising his glass to moisten it with a
few drops of wine.
"Do not use my Homer as you would an ox!" cried the host. "Homer
shall have the place of honor between the bowl and the garland-cake!
He is especially my poet! It was he who in Greek assisted me to
laudabilis et quidem egregie. Now we will mutually drink healths!
Jorgen shall be magister bibendi and then we will sing 'Gaudeamus
igitur' and 'Integer vitae.'"
"The Sexton with the cardinal's hat shall be the precentor!" cried
one of the youths from the provinces pointing toward a rosy-cheeked
"O now I am no longer sexton!" returned the other laughing. "If
thou bringest old histories up again thou wilt receive thy old
school-name 'the Smoke-squirter.'"
"But that is a very nice little history!" said the other. "We
called him 'Sexton" from the office his father held; but that
after all is not particularly witty. It was better with the hat
for it did indeed resemble a cardinal's hat. I in the mean time
got my name in a more amusing manner."
"He lived near the school" pursued the other; "he could always slip
home when we had out free quarters of an hour: and then one day he
had filled his mouth with tobacco smoke intending to blow it into
our faces; but when he entered the passage with his filled cheeks
the quarter of an hour was over and we were again in class: the
rector was still standing in the doorway; he could not therefore
blow the smoke out of his mouth and so wished to slip in as he
was. 'What have you there in your mouth?' asked the rector; but
Philip could answer nothing without at the same time losing the
smoke. 'Now cannot you speak?' cried the rector and gave him a
box on the ear so that the smoke burst through nose and mouth.
This looked quite exquisite; the affair caused the rector such
pleasure that he presented the poor sinner with the nota bene."
"Integer vitae!" broke in the Precentor and harmoniously followed
the other voices. After this a young Copenhagener exhibited his
dramatic talent by mimicking most illusively the professors of the
Academy and giving their peculiarities yet in such a good-natured
manner that it must have amused even the offended parties
themselves. Now followed the healths--"Vivant omnes hi et hae!"
"A health to the prettiest girl!" boldly cried one of the merriest
brothers. "The prettiest girl!" repeated a pair of the younger
ones and pushed their glasses toward each other whilst the blood
rushed to their cheeks at this their boldness for they had never
thought of a beloved being which nevertheless belonged to their
new life. The roundelay now commenced in which each one must give
the Christian name of his lady-love and assuredly every second
youth caught a name out of the air; some however repeated a name
with a certain palpitation of the heart. The discourse became more
animated; the approaching military exercises the handsome uniform
the reception in the students' club and its pleasures were all
matters of the highest interest. But there was the future
philologicum and philosophicum--yes that also was discussed;
there they must exhibit their knowledge of Latin.
"What do you think" said one of the party "if once a week we
alternately met at each other's rooms and held disputations? No
Danish word must be spoken. This might be an excellent scheme."
"I agree to that!" cried several.
"Regular laws must be drawn up."
"Yes and we must have our best Latin scholar the Jutlander Otto
Thostrup with us! He wrote his themes in hexameters."
"He is not invited here this evening" remarked the neighbor the
young Baron Wilhelm of Funen the only nobleman in the company.
"Otto Thostrup!" answered the host. "Yes truly he's a clever
fellow but he seems to me so haughty. There is something about him
that does not please me at all. We are still no dunces although
he did receive nine prae caeteris!"
"Yet it was very provoking" cried another "that he received the
only Non in mathematics. Otherwise he would have been called in.
Now he will only have to vex himself about his many brilliant
"Yes and he is well versed in mathematics!" added Wilhelm "There
was something incorrect in the writing; the inspector was to blame
for that but how I know not. Thostrup is terribly vehement and
can set all respect at defiance; he became angry and went out.
There was only a piece of unwritten paper presented from him
and this brought him a cipher which the verbal examination could
not bring higher than non. Thostrup is certainly a glorious fellow.
We have made a tour together in the steamboat from Helsingoer to
Copenhagen and in the written examination we sat beside each other
until the day when we had mathematics and then I sat below him. I
like him very much his pride excepted; and of that we must break
"Herr Baron" said his neighbor "I am of your opinion.
Shall not we drink the Thou-brotherhood?"
"To-night we will all of us drink the Thou!" said the host; "it is
nothing if comrades and good friends call each other _you_."
"Evoe Bacchus!" they joyously shouted. The glasses were filled one
arm was thrown round that of the neighbor and the glasses were
emptied whilst several commenced singing "dulce cum sodalibus!"
"Tell me what thou art called?" demanded one of the younger guests
of his new Thou-brother.
"What am I called?" replied he. "With the exception of one letter
the same as the Baron."
"The Baron!" cried a third; "yes where is he?"
"There he stands talking at the door; take your glasses! now have
all of us drank the Thou-brotherhood?"
The glasses were again raised; the young Baron laughed clinked his
glass and shouted in the circle "Thou Thou!" But in his whole
bearing there lay something constrained which however none of
the young men remarked far less allowed themselves to imagine that
his sudden retreat during the first drinking perhaps occurred
from the sole object of avoiding it. But soon was he again one of
the most extravagant; promised each youth who would study theology
a living on his estate when he should once get it into his own
hands; and proposed that the Latin disputations should commence
with him and on the following Friday. Otto Thostrup however
should he of the party--if he chose of course being understood;
for he was a capital student and his friend they had made a
journey together and had been neighbors at the green table.
Among those who were the earliest to make their valete amici was
the Baron. Several were not yet inclined to quit this joyous
circle. The deepest silence reigned in the streets; it was the most
beautiful moonlight. In most houses all had retired to rest--only
here and there was a light still seen most persons slept even
those whose sense of duty should leave banished the god of sleep:
thus sat a poor hackney-coachman aloft upon his coach-box before
the house where he awaited his party and enjoyed the reins wound
about his hand the much-desired rest. Wilhelm (henceforth we will
only call the young Baron by his Christian name) walked alone
through the street. The wine had heated his northern blood--besides
which it never flowed slowly; his youthful spirits his jovial
mood and the gayety occasioned by the merry company he had just
quitted did not permit him quietly to pass by this sleeping
Endymion. Suddenly it occurred to him to open the coach-door and
leap in; which having done he let the glass fall and called out
with a loud voice "Drive on!" The coachman started up out of his
blessed sleep and asked quite confused "Where to?" Without
reflecting about the matter Wilhelm cried "To the Ship in West
Street." The coachman drove on; about half-way Wilhelm again
opened the coach-door a bold spring helped him out and the coach
rolled on. It stopped at the public-house of the Ship. The coachman
got down and opened the door; there was no one within; he thrust
his head in thoroughly to convince himself; but no the carriage
was empty! "Extraordinary!" said the fellow; "can I have dreamed
it? But still I heard quite distinctly how I was told to drive to
the Ship! Lord preserve us! now they are waiting for me!" He leaped
upon the box and drove rapidly back again.
In the mean time Wilhelm had reached his abode in Vineyard Street;
he opened a window to enjoy the beautiful night and gazed out upon
the desolate church-yard which is shut in by shops. He had no
inclination for sleep although everything in the street even the
watchmen not excepted appeared to rejoice the gift of God. Wilhelm
thought upon the merry evening party upon his adventure with the
poor hackney-coachman then took down his violin from the wall and
began to play certain variations.
The last remaining guests from the honorable carousal merrier than
when Wilhelm left them now came wandering up the street. One of
them jodeled sweetly and no watchman showed himself as a
disturbing principle. They heard Wilhelm violin and recognized the
"Play us a Francaise thou up there!" cried they.
"But the watchman?" whispered one of the less courageous.
"Zounds there he sits!" cried a third and pointed toward a
sleeping object which leaned its head upon a large wooden chest
before a closed booth.
"He is happy!" said the first speaker. "If we had only the strong
Icelander here he would soon hang him up by his bandelier upon one
of the iron hooks. He has done that before now; he has the strength
of a bear. He seized such a lazy fellow as this right daintily by
his girdle on one of the hooks at the weighing-booth. There hung
the watchman and whistled to the others; the first who hastened to
the spot was immediately hung up beside him and away ran the
Icelander whilst the two blew a duet."
"Here take hold!" cried one of the merry brothers quickly opening
the chest the lid of which was fastened by a peg. "Let us put the
watchman into the chest; he sleeps indeed like a horse!" In a
moment the four had seized the sleeper who certainly awoke during
the operation but he already lay in the chest. The lid flew down
and two or three of the friends sprang upon it whilst the peg was
stuck in again. The watchman immediately seized his whistle and
drew the most heart-rending tones from it. Quickly the tormenting
spirits withdrew themselves; yet not so far but that they could
still hear the whistle and observe what would take place.
The watchmen now came up.
"The deuce! where art thou?" cried they and then discovered the
"Ah God help me!" cried the prisoner. "Let me out let me out! I
"Thou hast drunk more than thy thirst required comrade!" said the
others. "If thou hast fallen into the chest remain lying there
thou swine!" And laughing they left him.
"O the rascals!" sighed he and worked in vain at opening the lid.
Through all his powerful exertions the box fell over. The young men
now stepped forth and as though they were highly astonished at
the whole history which he related to them they let themselves be
prevailed upon to open the box but only upon condition that he
should keep street free from the interference of the other
watchmen whilst they danced a Francaise to Wilhelm's violin.
The poor man was delivered from his captivity and must obligingly
play the sentinel whilst they arranged them for the dance. Wilhelm
was called upon to play and the dance commenced; a partner
however was wanting. Just then a quiet citizen passed by. The
gentleman who had no partner approached the citizen with comic
respect and besought him to take part in the amusement.
"I never dance!" said the man laughing and wished to pursue his
"Yes" replied the cavalier "yet you must still do me this
pleasure or else I shall have no dance." Saying this he took hold
of him by the waist and the dance commenced whether the good man
would or no.
"The watchman should receive a present from every one!" said they
when the Francaise was at an end. "He is an excellent man who thus
keeps order in the street so that one can enjoy a little dance."
"These are honest people's children!" said the watchman to himself
whilst he with much pleasure thrust the money into his leathern
All was again quiet in the street; the violin was also silent.
"Who looks into the shadowy realm of my heart?"
A. V. CHAMISSO.
In the former chapter we heard mention made of a young student
Otto Thostrup a clever fellow with nine prae caeteris as his
comrades said but also of a proud spirit of which he must be
broken. Not at the disputations which have been already mentioned
will we make his acquaintance although there we must be filled
with respect for the good Latin scholar; not in large companies
where his handsome exterior and his speaking melancholy glance
must make him interesting; as little in the pit of the Opera
although his few yet striking observations there would show him to
be a very intellectual young man; but we will seek him out for the
first time at the house of his friend the young Baron Wilhelm. It
is the beginning of November: we find them both with their pipes in
their mouths; upon the table lie Tibullus and Anacreon which they
are reading together for the approaching philologicum.
In the room stands a piano-forte with a number of music-books;
upon the walls hang the portraits of Weyse and Beethoven for our
young Baron is musical nay a composer himself.
"See here we have again this lovely clinging mist!" said Wilhelm.
"Out of doors one can fairly taste it; at home it would be a real
plague to me here it only Londonizes the city."
"I like it!" said Otto. "To me it is like an old acquaintance from
Vestervovov. It is as though the mist brought me greetings from the
sea and sand-hills."
"I should like to see the North Sea but the devil might live
there! What town lies nearest to your grandfather's estate?"
"Lernvig" answered Otto. "If any one wish to see the North Sea
properly they ought to go up as far as Thisted and Hjorring. I
have travelled there have visited the family in Borglum-Kloster;
and besides this have made other small journeys. Never shall I
forget one evening; yes it was a storm of which people in the
interior of the country can form no conception. I rode--I was then
a mere boy and a very wild lad--with one of our men. When the
storm commenced we found ourselves among the sand-hills. Ah!
that you should have seen! The sand forms along the strand high
banks which serve as dikes against the sea; these are overgrown
with sea-grass but if the storm bursts a single hole the whole
is carried away. This spectacle we chanced to witness. It is a true
Arabian sand-storm and the North Sea bellowed so that it might be
heard at the distance of many miles. The salt foam flew together
with the sand into our faces."
"That must have been splendid!" exclaimed Wilhelm and his eyes
sparkled. "Jutland is certainly the most romantic part of Denmark.
Since I read Steen-Blicher's novels I have felt a real interest for
that country. It seems to me that it must greatly resemble the
Lowlands of Scotland. And gypsies are also found there are they
"Vagabonds we call them" said Otto with an involuntary motion of
the mouth. "They correspond to the name!"
"The fishermen also on the coast are not much better! Do they
still from the pulpit pray for wrecks? Do they still slay
"I have heard our preacher who is an old man relate how in the
first years after he had obtained his office and dignity he was
obliged to pray in the church that if ships stranded they might
strand in his district; but this I have never heard myself. But
with regard to what is related of murdering why the fishermen--
sea-geese as they are called--are by no means a tender-hearted
people; but it is not as bad as that in our days. A peasant died in
the neighborhood of whom it was certainly related that in bad
weather he had bound a lantern under his horse's belly and let it
wander up and down the beach so that the strange mariner who was
sailing in those seas might imagine it some cruising ship and thus
fancy himself still a considerable way from land. By this means
many a ship is said to have been destroyed. But observe these are
stories out of the district of Thisted and of an elder age before
my power of observation had developed itself; this was that golden
age when in tumble-down fishers' huts after one of these good
shipwrecks valuable shawls but little damaged by the sea might
be found employed as bed-hangings. Boots and shoes were smeared
with the finest pomatum. If such things now reach their hands they
know better how to turn them into money. The Strand-commissioners
are now on the watch; now it is said to be a real age of copper."
"Have you seen a vessel stranded?" inquired Wilhelm with
"Our estate lies only half a mile from the sea. Every year about
this time when the mist spreads itself out as it does to-day and
the storms begin to rage then was it most animated. In my wild
spirits when I was a boy and especially in the midst of our
monotonous life I truly yearned after it. Once upon a journey to
Borglum-Kloster I experienced a storm. In the early morning; it
was quite calm but gray and we witnessed a kind of Fata Morgana.
A ship which had not yet risen above the horizon showed itself in
the distance but the rigging was turned upside down; the masts
were below the hull above. This is called the ship of death and
when it is seen people are sure of bad weather and shipwreck.
Later about midday it began to blow and in an hour's time we had
a regular tempest. The sea growled quite charmingly; we travelled
on between sand-hills--they resemble hills and dales in winter
time but here it is not snow which melts away; here never grows
a single green blade; a black stake stands up here and there and
these are rudders from wrecks the histories of which are unknown.
In the afternoon arose a storm such as I had experienced when