A cheerful temper

Et godt humør

From my father I received the best inheritance, namely a "good temper." - "And who was my father?" That has nothing to do with the good temper; but I will say he was lively, good-looking round, and fat; he was both in appearance and character a complete contradiction to his profession. "And pray what was his profession and his standing in respectable society?" Well, perhaps, if in the beginning of a book these were written and printed, many, when they read it, would lay the book down and say, "It seems to me a very miserable title, I don't like things of this sort." And yet my father was not a skin-dresser nor an executioner; on the contrary, his employment placed him at the head of the grandest people of the town, and it was his place by right. He had to precede the bishop, and even the princes of the blood; he always went first,– he was a hearse driver! There, now, the truth is out. And I will own, that when people saw my father perched up in front of the omnibus of death, dressed in his long, wide, black cloak, and his black-edged, three-cornered hat on his head, and then glanced at his round, jocund face, round as the sun, they could not think much of sorrow or the grave. That face said, "It is nothing, it will all end better than people think." So I have inherited from him, not only my good temper, but a habit of going often to the churchyard, which is good, when done in a proper humor; and then also I take in the Intelligencer, just as he used to do.
I am not very young, I have neither wife nor children, nor a library, but, as I said, I read the Intelligencer, which is enough for me; it is to me a delightful paper, and so it was to my father. It is of great use, for it contains all that a man requires to know; the names of the preachers at the church, and the new books which are published; where houses, servants, clothes, and provisions may be obtained. And then what a number of subscriptions to charities, and what innocent verses! Persons seeking interviews and engagements, all so plainly and naturally stated. Certainly, a man who takes in the Intelligencer may live merrily and be buried contentedly, and by the end of his life will have such a capital stock of paper that he can lie on a soft bed of it, unless he prefers wood shavings for his resting-place. The newspaper and the churchyard were always exciting objects to me. My walks to the latter were like bathing-places to my good humor. Every one can read the newspaper for himself, but come with me to the churchyard while the sun shines and the trees are green, and let us wander among the graves. Each of them is like a closed book, with the back uppermost, on which we can read the title of what the book contains, but nothing more. I had a great deal of information from my father, and I have noticed a great deal myself. I keep it in my diary, in which I write for my own use and pleasure a history of all who lie here, and a few more beside.
Now we are in the churchyard. Here, behind the white iron railings, once a rose-tree grew; it is gone now, but a little bit of evergreen, from a neighboring grave, stretches out its green tendrils, and makes some appearance; there rests a very unhappy man, and yet while he lived he might be said to occupy a very good position. He had enough to live upon, and something to spare; but owing to his refined tastes the least thing in the world annoyed him. If he went to a theatre of an evening, instead of enjoying himself he would be quite annoyed if the machinist had put too strong a light into one side of the moon, or if the representations of the sky hung over the scenes when they ought to have hung behind them; or if a palm-tree was introduced into a scene representing the Zoological Gardens of Berlin, or a cactus in a view of Tyrol, or a beech-tree in the north of Norway. As if these things were of any consequence! Why did he not leave them alone? Who would trouble themselves about such trifles? especially at a comedy, where every one is expected to be amused. Then sometimes the public applauded too much, or too little, to please him. "They are like wet wood," he would say, looking round to see what sort of people were present, "this evening; nothing fires them." Then he would vex and fret himself because they did not laugh at the right time, or because they laughed in the wrong places; and so he fretted and worried himself till at last the unhappy man fretted himself into the grave.
Here rests a happy man, that is to say, a man of high birth and position, which was very lucky for him, otherwise he would have been scarcely worth notice. It is beautiful to observe how wisely nature orders these things. He walked about in a coat embroidered all over, and in the drawing-rooms of society looked just like one of those rich pearl-embroidered bell-pulls, which are only made for show; and behind them always hangs a good thick cord for use. This man also had a stout, useful substitute behind him, who did duty for him, and performed all his dirty work. And there are still, even now, these serviceable cords behind other embroidered bell-ropes. It is all so wisely arranged, that a man may well be in a good humor.
Here rests,– ah, it makes one feel mournful to think of him!– but here rests a man who, during sixty-seven years, was never remembered to have said a good thing; he lived only in the hope of having a good idea. At last he felt convinced, in his own mind, that he really had one, and was so delighted that he positively died of joy at the thought of having at last caught an idea. Nobody got anything by it; indeed, no one even heard what the good thing was. Now I can imagine that this same idea may prevent him from resting quietly in his grave; for suppose that to produce a good effect, it is necessary to bring out his new idea at breakfast, and that he can only make his appearance on earth at midnight, as ghosts are believed generally to do; why then this good idea would not suit the hour, and the man would have to carry it down again with him into the grave– that must be a troubled grave.
The woman who lies here was so remarkably stingy, that during her life she would get up in the night and mew, that her neighbors might think she kept a cat. What a miser she was!
Here rests a young lady, of a good family, who would always make her voice heard in society, and when she sang "Mi manca la voce," it was the only true thing she ever said in her life.
Here lies a maiden of another description. She was engaged to be married,– but, her story is one of every-day life; we will leave her to rest in the grave.
Here rests a widow, who, with music in her tongue, carried gall in her heart. She used to go round among the families near, and search out their faults, upon which she preyed with all the envy and malice of her nature. This is a family grave. The members of this family held so firmly together in their opinions, that they would believe in no other. If the newspapers, or even the whole world, said of a certain subject, "It is so-and-so;" and a little schoolboy declared he had learned quite differently, they would take his assertion as the only true one, because he belonged to the family. And it is well known that if the yard-cock belonging to this family happened to crow at midnight, they would declare it was morning, although the watchman and all the clocks in the town were proclaiming the hour of twelve at night.
The great poet Goethe concludes his Faust with the words, "may be continued;" so might our wanderings in the churchyard be continued. I come here often, and if any of my friends, or those who are not my friends, are too much for me, I go out and choose a plot of ground in which to bury him or her. Then I bury them, as it were; there they lie, dead and powerless, till they come back new and better characters. Their lives and their deeds, looked at after my own fashion, I write down in my diary, as every one ought to do. Then, if any of our friends act absurdly, no one need to be vexed about it. Let them bury the offenders out of sight, and keep their good temper. They can also read the Intelligencer, which is a paper written by the people, with their hands guided. When the time comes for the history of my life, to be bound by the grave, then they will write upon it as my epitaph–
"The man with a cheerful temper."
And this is my story.
Efter min fader har jeg fået den bedste arvepart, jeg har fået et godt humør. Og hvem var min fader? ja, det kommer nu ikke humøret ved! han var livlig og trivelig, fed og rund, hans ydre og indre ganske i strid med hans embede. Og hvad var hans embede, hans stilling i samfundet? Ja, skulle det skrives ned og trykkes lige i begyndelsen af en bog, så er det rimeligt at flere, når de læste det, lagde bogen til side og sagde, det ser mig så uhyggeligt ud, jeg skal ikke have af den slags. Og dog var min fader hverken rakker eller skarpretter, tværtimod, hans embede bragte ham tit i spidsen for stadens allerhæderligste mænd, og han var der ganske i sin ret, ganske på sin plads; han måtte været forrest, foran bispen, foran prinser af blodet – og han var forrest - han var ligvognskusk!
Nu er det sagt! og det kan jeg sige, at når man så min fader sidde der højt, foran på dødens omnibus, iført sin lange side, sorte kappe, og med den sortbefrynsede trekantede hat på hovedet, og dertil så hans ansigt, der livagtigt var, som man aftegner solen, rundt og leende, så kunne man ikke tænke på sorg og grav; det ansigt sagde: "Det gør ikke noget, det bliver meget bedre, end man tror!"
Se, fra ham har jeg mit gode humør og den vane, jævnlig at gå ud på kirkegården; og det er meget fornøjeligt, når man kun kommer der med et godt humør, – og så holder jeg Adresseavisen, ligesom også han gjorde.
Jeg er ikke ganske ung, – jeg har hverken kone, børn eller bibliotek, men som sagt, jeg holder Adresseavisen, den er mig nok, den er mig det bedste blad, og det var den også for min fader; den gør sit gode gavn og har alt hvad et menneske behøver at vide: hvem der prædiker i kirkerne og hvem der prædiker i de nye bøger! hvor man får hus, tjenestefolk, klæder og føde, hvem der "sælger ud" og hvem der selv går ud, og så ser man så megen velgørenhed og så mange uskyldige vers, der ikke gør noget! ægtestand, der søges og stævnemøder, som man indlader og ikke indlader sig på! alt sammen simpelt og naturligt! Man kan såmænd meget godt leve lykkeligt og lade sig begrave, ved at holde Adresseavisen – og så har man ved sit livs ende, så dejligt meget papir, at man kan ligge blødt på det, dersom man ikke holder af at ligge på høvlspåner.
Adresseavisen og kirkegården, det er og var altid mine to mest åndsvækkende spadserefarter, mine to mest velsignede badeanstalter for det gode humør.
Enhver kan nu gå ind i Adresseavisen; men gå med mig på kirkegården, lad os komme der, når solen skinner og træerne er grønne; lad os gå mellem gravene! hver af disse er som en lukket bog med ryggen op ad, man kan læse titlen, som siger hvad bogen indeholder og siger dog ingenting; men jeg ved besked, ved den fra min fader og fra mig selv. Jeg har det i min gravbog, og det er en bog, jeg selv har gjort, til nytte og fornøjelse; der ligger de alle sammen, og endnu nogle flere!
Nu er vi på kirkegården.
Her, bag det hvidmalede pindegitter, hvor der indenfor engang stod et rosentræ, – nu er det borte, men en smule eviggrønt fra naboens grav strækker sin grønne finger derind, for dog at gøre lidt stads, – hviler en meget ulykkelig mand, og dog, da han levede, stod han sig godt, som man siger, havde sit gode udkomme, og lidt til, men han tog sig verden for nær, det vil sige kunsten. Sad han en aften i teatret for at nyde med hele sin sjæl, så var han rent fra det, når bare maskinmesteren satte for stærkt et lys i hver kæbe på månen, eller luftsoffiten hang foran kulissen hvor den skulle hænge bag ved, eller der kom et palmetræ på Amager, kaktus i Tyrol og bøgetræer højt oppe i Norge! Kan det ikke være lige et og det samme, hvem tænker over sligt! det er jo komedie, og den skal man fornøje sig over. – Så klappede publikum for meget, så klappede det for lidt. "Det er vådt brænde," sagde han, "det vil ikke fænge i aften!" og så vendte han sig om for at se, hvad det var for folk, og så så han at de lo galt, lo på steder hvor de ikke skulle le, og det ærgrede han sig over og led ved og var et ulykkeligt menneske, og nu er han i graven.
Her hviler en meget lykkelig mand, det vil sige en meget fornem mand af høj byrd, og det var hans lykke, thi ellers var der aldrig blevet noget af ham, men alt er nu så viseligt indrettet i naturen, at det er en fornøjelse at tænke derpå. Han gik broderet for og bag og var anbragt i storstuen, som man anbringer den kostelige, perlebroderede klokkestreng, den har altid bag ved sig en god tyk snor, der gør tjenesten; han havde også en god snor bag ved, en substitut, der gjorde tjenesten og gør den endnu bag en anden ny, broderet klokkestreng. Alting er nu så viseligt indrettet, at man sagtens kan have et godt humør.
Her hviler, ja, det er nu så meget sørgeligt –! her hviler en mand, som i syvogtresindstyve år havde tænkt på at sige et godt indfald; han levede alene for at få et godt indfald, og så fik han virkelig et, efter egen overbevisning, og blev så glad at han døde i det, døde af glæde over at have fået det, og ingen nød gavn deraf, ingen hørte det gode indfald. Jeg kan nu tænke, at han engang har ro i sin grav for det gode indfald, thi sæt, at det var et indfald, det måtte siges til frokost, når det skulle gøre virkning, og at han som død kun kan, efter almindelig mening, komme frem ved midnat, så passer ikke indfaldet til tiden, ingen ler og han kan gå i graven igen med sit gode indfald. Det er en sørgelig grav.
Her hviler en meget gerrig madam; mens hun levede, stod hun op om natten og mjavede, for at naboerne skulle tro at hun holdt kat; så gerrig var hun!
Her hviler en frøken af god familie; altid i selskab skulle hun lade sin sangstemme høre, og så sang hun med i "mi manca la voce"! det var den eneste sandhed i hendes liv!
Her hviler en jomfru af en anden slags! Når hjertets kanariefugl begynder at skrige op, så putter fornuften fingrene i ørene. Skønjomfru stod i ægtestands glorie –! det er en hverdagshistorie – men det er pænt sagt. Lad de døde hvile!
Her hviler en enkefrue, der havde svanesang i munden, og uglegalde i hjertet. Hun gik om i familier på rov efter næstens mangler, ligesom i gamle dage "politivennen" gik om for at finde et rendestensbræt, som ikke var der.
Her er en familiebegravelse; hvert led af den slægt holdt sådan sammen i troen, at om hele verden og avisen sagde, således er det, og da den lille søn kom fra skolen og sagde, "jeg har hørt det på den måde!" så var hans måde den eneste rigtige, for han var af familien. Og vist er det, at traf det sig så, at familiens gårdhane galede ved midnat, så var det morgen, om endogså vægteren og alle byens ure sagde, det er midnat.
Den store Goethe slutter sin "Faust" med, at den "kan fortsættes," det kan også vor vandring herud på kirkegården; her kommer jeg tit! gør en eller anden af mine venner eller ikke-venner mig det for broget, så går jeg herud, opsøger en grønsværsplads og indvir den til ham eller hende, hvem jeg vil have begravet, og så begraver jeg dem straks, så ligger de der døde og magtesløse, indtil de som nye og bedre mennesker vender tilbage. Deres liv og levned, set fra min side, skriver jeg ind i min gravbog, og således skulle alle mennesker bære sig ad, ikke ærgre sig, når nogen gør dem det for galt, men straks begrave dem, holde på sit gode humør og på Adresseavisen, dette af folket selv skrevne blad, tit med påholdt pen.
Kommer den tid, at jeg selv med mit livs historie skal indbindes i graven, så sæt som indskrift:
"Et godt humør!"
Det er min historie.