A string of pearls

Et stykke perlesnor

The railroad in Denmark still extends only from Copenhagen to Korsör; it is a string of pearls. Europe has a wealth of these pearls; its most costly are named Paris, London, Vienna, Naples. And yet many a man will point out as his favorite pearl not one of these great cities but rather some little country town that is still the home of homes to him, the home of those dearest to him. Yes, often it is not a town at all, but a single homestead, a little house, hidden among green hedges, a place hardly visible as the train speeds by.
How many pearls are there on the line from Copenhagen to Korsör? We will consider just six, which most people must notice; old memories and poetry itself give a luster to these pearls, so that they shine in our thoughts.
Near the hill where stands the palace of Frederick VI, the home of Oehlenschläger's childhood, one of these pearls glistens, sheltered by Söndermarken's woody ground. It used to be called "The Cottage of Philemon and Baucis." Here lived Rahbek and his wife, Camma; here, under their hospitable roof, assembled many of the generation's finest intellects from busy Copenhagen; it was the festival home of the intellectual. Now, don't say, "Ah, what a change!" No, it is still the home of the intellect, a conservatory for sick plants, for buds which do not have the strength to unfold their true beauty of color and form or show the blossoming and fruit-bearing which is hidden within them. The insane asylum, surrounded by human love, is truly a spot of holiness, a hospital for the sick plants that shall someday be transplanted to bloom in the paradise of God. The weakest minds are assembled now here, where once the strongest and keenest met to exchange thoughts and ideas, but still the flame of generosity mounts heavenward from "The Cottage of Philemon and Baucis."
Ancient Roskilde, the burial town of Kings, by Hroar's Spring, now lies before us. The slender towers of the church lift up above the low town and mirror themselves in Issefiord. Only one grave shall we seek here; it is not that of the mighty Queen Margrethe; no within the white-walled churchyard which we speed close by is the grave, and over it lays a small, plain stone. The master of the organ, the reviver of the old Danish romances, rests here. We recall, "The clear waves rolled" and "There dwelt a king in Leire." Roskilde, burial place of kings-in your pearl we see the insignificant gravestone whereon is cut a lyre and the name Weyse.
Now we reach Sigersted, near the town of Ringsted. The bed of the river is low here; yellow corn waves over the spot where Hagbarth's boat lay at anchor, not far from Signe's maiden bower. Who does not know the legend of Hagbarth, who was hanged on the oak tree while the bower of Signe burst into flames? Who can forget that legend of immortal love?
"Beautiful Sorö, encircled by woods!" Your quiet old cloistered town peeps out through its mossy trees; the keen eyes of youth from the academy can look across the lake toward the world's highway and hear the roar of the locomotive's dragon as it speeds through the woods. Sorö, pearl of poetry, you are guarding the dust of Holberg! Your palace of learning stands beside the deep woodland lake like a great white swan, and near by, like the bright starflower of the woods, there gleams a tiny cottage, whence pious hymns echo throughout the land; words are spoken within, and the peasant listens and learns of Denmark's bygone days. As the song of the bird is to the greenwood, so is Ingemann to Sorö.
On to the town of Slagelse! What is mirrored here in this pearl's luster? Gone forever is the cloister of Antoorskov (NB: Antvorskov); vanished are the rich halls of the castle, even the last remaining wing; yet one relic of olden times still lingers here, the wooden cross on the hill. It has been repaired again and again, for it marks the spot where, legend tells us, Saint Anders, holy priest of Slagelse, awoke, after having been brought there from Jerusalem in a single night.
Korsör, birthplace of Baggesen, master of words and wit! The ruined old ramparts of the fallen fortress are now the last visible witness of your childhood home; their lengthening sunset shadows point to the spot where stood the house in which you were born. From these hills you looked toward Sprogö and sang in undying verse.
Nowhere have roses so red a hue
And nowhere are feathers so light and so blue,
Nowhere the thorns so daintily grown,
As those to childhood innocence known.
Humorous, charming singer! We shall weave for thee a garland of woodbine and fling it into the lake, so that the current may bear it to the coast of Kielerfiord, where your ashes rest. The tide shall bring you a greeting from the new generation, a greeting from your birthplace Korsör - where I drop my string of pearls.
"That's quite right! A string of pearls does stretch from Copenhagen to Korsör," said Grandmother when she had heard this read aloud. "It's a string of pearls for me now, as it was more than forty years ago. We had no railroad then; we spent days on a trip that can now be made in as many hours. That was in 1815, and I was twenty-one; that is a charming age! Although to be up in the sixties, that is also a wonderful age! In my young days it was a much rarer event than it is now to come to Copenhagen, which we considered the town of all towns! My parents hadn't visited it for twenty years, but at last they were going, and I was going with them. We had talked about that journey for years before, and now it was actually coming true; it seemed as though a new life were beginning for me, and really in a way a new life did begin for me.
"There was such a bustle of sewing and packing; and when at last we were ready to start, such a crowd of friends came to bid us farewell! It was a long journey we had ahead of us. Shortly before noon we drove out of Odense in my parents' Holstein carriage, and our friends waved to us from the windows all the way down the street, till we passed through St. Jörgen's Gate. The weather was beautiful; the birds sang, and everything was joyful; we forgot what a long and tiresome road it was to Nyborg. We reached it toward evening; but the little sailing vessel had to wait for the mail, which didn't arrive until night. Then we got on board, and as far as we could see the wide, smooth waters lay before us. We lay down and went to sleep in our clothes. When I awoke and came on deck next morning, I could see nothing at all; a heavy fog covered everything. When I heard the cocks crowing, I knew it must be sunrise; bells were ringing, but I didn't know where; then the mist lifted, and we found we were still lying very close to Nyborg. Later in the day a wind came up, but it was against us; we tacked back and forth, and at last were lucky enough to reach Korsör by a little past eleven that night, having spent twenty-two hours to go sixteen miles!
It was good to get ashore, but it was dark; the lamps were weak, and it all seemed very strange to me, who had never been in any other town but Odense.
" 'Look!' said my father. 'Baggesen was born there! And Birckner lived in that house!' When I heard that, somehow the dark old town with its narrow little streets seemed to grow larger and brighter. And we were so glad to feel solid earth under our feet! There was no sleep for me that night, for I was so excited over all that I had seen and heard since I had left home the day before.
"Next morning we had to leave early; there was a terrible road ahead of us, with great bumps and holes as far as Slagelse, and not much better from there on, and we wanted to get to the Crab Inn early, so that on the same day we could reach Sorö and visit the Möllers' Emil, as we called him then; yes, he was your grandfather, my late husband, the dean. He was a student at Sorö then, and had just passed his second examination.
"That afternoon we reached the Crab Inn, which was a gallant place at that time, the very best inn on the whole trip, with the prettiest country around it. Yes, but you must all admit that it still is. Madame Plambek was an industrious hostess, and everything in her house was as smoothly scoured as a larding board. On the wall they had, framed under glass, Baggesen's letter to her; it was indeed worth seeing, and I greatly enjoyed looking at it. Then he went to Sorö and found Emil there. You can imagine how glad we were to see him, and he to see us. He was so thoughtful and charming; he took us to see the church, and the graves of Absalon and Holberg; he inspected the old monkish inscriptions with us, and sailed with us across the lake to Parnasset. It was the most wonderful evening I remember! I was thinking that to become a poet one had only to come to Sorö and meditate among those lovely, peaceful scenes. By moonlight we followed the 'Philosopher's Walk,' as it's called, the wonderful and lonely little path beside the lake that joins the highway near the Crab Inn. Emil stayed for supper with us, and my father and my mother declared he had grown so sensible and looked so well. It was almost Whitsuntide, and he promised that in a few days he would be in Copenhagen to join us and his family. Ah, those few hours in Sorö and at the Crab Inn I count among the choicest pearls of my life!
"Next morning we again started very early, for we had a long trip to Roskilde, where we wanted to see the church and Father wanted to visit an old school friend that evening. We spent that night in Roskilde and reached Copenhagen by noon the next day. So we had spent about three days on a journey that can now be made in three hours-Korsör to Copenhagen. The pearls on that way have not grown more costly-that could never be-but the string is new and wonderful.
"I stayed with my parents in Copenhagen for three weeks. Emil was with us for eighteen whole days, and when we returned to Fünen he went with us as far as Korsör. There, before we parted, we were betrothed. So it is no wonder I should call the road from Copenhagen to Korsör a string of pearls.
"Afterwards, when Emil received his post at Assens, we were married. We often talked about that journey to Copenhagen, and intended doing it again, but then your mother came along, and after her came her brothers and sisters, and with all of them there was so much to do and take care of! Then your grandfather was promoted and made a dean; yes, everything was happiness and joy, but we never got to Copenhagen again. No, I have never been there since, though we often thought and talked about it. Now I'm much too old to travel by rail, but still I'm right glad there is a railway; it's a real blessing, because it brings you young ones to me more quickly!
"Nowadays Odense is hardly farther from Copenhagen than in my youth it was from Nyborg; you can speed to Italy in the time it took us to reach Copenhagen! Yes, that is certainly something! It doesn't matter that I just sit here always; let the others travel, so long as they sometimes travel to me.
"And you needn't laugh at me, you young people, for sitting so still here, day after day! I have really a wonderful journey ahead of me; I shall soon have to travel at a speed far greater than the railway's. For when our Lord calls me I shall go to join your grandfather; and when you have completed your work on this dear earth, you too will join us; and then, if we talk over the days of our mortal life, believe me, dear children, I shall say then as I do now, 'From Copenhagen to Korsör is a perfect string of pearls!' "
Jernbanen i Danmark strækker sig endnu kun fra København til Korsør, den er et stykke perlesnor, dem Europa har en rigdom af; de kosteligste perler der nævnes: Paris, London, Wien, Neapel –; dog mangen én udpeger ikke disse store stæder som sin skønneste perle, men derimod viser hen til en lille umærkelig stad, der er hjemmets hjem, der bor de kære; ja, tit er det kun en enkelt gård, et lille hus, skjult mellem grønne hække, et punkt, der flyver hen idet banetoget jager forbi.
Hvor mange perler er der på snoren fra København til Korsør? Vi vil betragte seks, som de fleste må lægge mærke til, gamle minder og poesien selv giver disse perler en glans, så at de stråler ind i vor tanke.
Nær ved bakken, hvor Frederik den Sjettes slot ligger, Oehlenschlägers barndomshjem, skinner i læ af Søndermarkens skovgrund én af perlerne, man kaldte den "Filemons og Baukis' hytte," det ville sige: to elskelige gamles hjem. Her boede Rahbek med sin hustru Camma, her, under deres gæstfrie tag, samlede sig i en menneskealder alt åndens dygtige fra det travle København, her var et åndens hjem, – – og nu! sig ikke, "ak, hvor forandret!" – nej, endnu er det åndens hjem, drivhuset for den sygnende plante! Blomsterknoppen, der ikke er mægtig nok til at udfolde sig, gemmer dog, skjult, alle spirer til blad og frø. Her skinner åndens sol ind i et fredet åndens hjem, opliver og levendegør. Verden rundt om stråler ind gennem øjnene i sjælens ugranskelige dybde: Idiotens Hjem, omsvævet af menneskekærligheden, er et helligt sted, et drivhus for den sygnende plante, der skal engang omplantes og blomstre i Guds urtegård. De svageste i ånden samles nu her, hvor engang de største og kraftigste mødtes, vekslede tanker og løftedes opad – opad blusser end her sjælenes flamme i "Filemons og Baukis' Hytte."
Kongegravenes by ved Hroars væld, det gamle Roskilde, ligger for os; kirkens slanke tårnspir løfter sig over den lave by og spejler sig i Isefjorden; én grav kun vil vi her søge, betragte den i perlens glar; det er ikke den mægtige uniondronning Margrethes – nej, inde på kirkegården, hvis hvide mur vi tæt ved flyver forbi, er graven, en ringe sten er lagt hen over den, orglets drot, den danske romances fornyer, hviler her; melodier i vor sjæl blev de gamle sagn, vi fornam hvor: "De klare bølger rulled'," - "der boede en konge i Lejre!" – Roskilde, kongegravenes by, i din perle vil vi se på den ringe grav, hvor i stenen er hugget lyren og navnet: Weyse.
Nu kommer vi til Sigersted ved Ringsted by; ålejet er lavt; det gule korn vokser, hvor Hagbarths båd lagde an, ikke langt fra Signes jomfrubur. Hvem kender ikke sagnet om Hagbarth, der hang i egen og Signelils bur stod i lue, sagnet om den stærke kærlighed.
"Dejlige Sorø omkranset af skove!" din stille klosterby har fået udkig mellem de mosgroede træer; med ungdomsblik ser den fra akademiet ud over søen til verdenslandevejen, hører lokomotivets drage puste, idet den flyver gennem skoven. Sorø, du digtningens perle, der gemmer Holbergs støv! Som en mægtig, hvid svane ved den dybe skovsø ligger dit lærdoms slot, og op til den, og derhen søger vort øje, skinner, som den hvide stjerneblomst i skovgrunden, et lille hus, fromme salmer klinger derfra ud gennem landet, ord mæles derinde, bonden selv lytter dertil og kender svundne tider i Danmark. Den grønne skov og fuglens sang hører sammen, således navnene Sorø og Ingemann.
Til Slagelse by –! hvad spejler sig her i perlens glar? Forsvundet er Antvorskov kloster, forsvundet slottets rige sale, selv dets ensom stående forladte fløj; dog et gammelt tegn står endnu, fornyet og atter fornyet, et trækors på højen derhenne, hvor i legendens tid Hellig-Anders, den Slagelse-præst, vågnede op, båren i én nat herhid fra Jerusalem.
Korsør – her fødtes du, der gav os:
– "Skæmt med alvor blandet
i viser af Knud Sjællandsfar."
Du mester i ord og vid! de synkende gamle volde af den forladte befæstning er nu her det sidste synlige vidne om dit barndomshjem; når solen går ned, peger deres skygger hen på den plet, hvor dit fødehus stod; fra disse volde, skuende mod Sprogøs højde, så du, da du "var lille," - "månen ned bag øen glide" og besang den udødeligt, som du siden besang Schweiz' bjerge, du, som drog om i verdens labyrint og fandt, at –
"– – ingensteds er roserne så røde,
og ingensteds er tornene så små,
og ingensteds er dunene så bløde
som de, vor barndoms uskyld hvilte på!"
Lunets liflige sanger! vi fletter dig en krans af skovmærker, kaster den i søen, og bølgen vil bære den til Kielerfjord, på hvis kyst dit støv er lagt; den bringer hilsen fra den unge slægt, hilsen fra fødebyen Korsør – hvor perlesnoren slipper!
"Det er rigtignok et stykke perlesnor fra København til Korsør," sagde bedstemoder, der havde hørt læse, hvad vi nu nys læste. "Det er en perlesnor for mig og det blev den mig allerede for nu over fyrretyve år siden!" sagde hun. "Da havde vi ikke dampmaskinerne, vi brugte dage til den vej, hvor I nu kun bruger timer! Det var 1815; da var jeg enogtyve år! det er en dejlig alder! skønt op i de tres, det er også en dejlig alder, så velsignet! – I mine unge dage, ja, da var det en anderledes sjældenhed, end nu, at komme til København, byen for alle byerne, som vi anså den. Mine forældre ville, efter tyve år, engang igen gøre et besøg der, jeg skulle med; den rejse havde vi i åringer talt om og nu skulle den virkelig gå for sig! jeg syntes, at et helt nyt liv ville begynde, og på en måde også begyndte der for mig et nyt liv.
Der blev syet og der blev pakket sammen og da vi nu skulle af sted, ja, hvor mange gode venner kom ikke for at sige os lev vel! det var en stor rejse vi havde for! Op ad formiddag kørte vi ud fra Odense i mine forældres holstenske vogn, bekendte nikkede fra vinduerne hele gaden igennem, næsten til vi var helt ude af Sankt Jørgens Port. Vejret var dejligt, fuglene sang, alt var fornøjelse, man glemte, at det var en svær, lang vej til Nyborg; mod aften kom vi der; posten indtraf først ud på natten og før afgik ikke børtfartøjet; vi tog da om bord; der lå nu ud foran os det store vand, så langt vi kunne øjne, så blikstille. Vi lagde os i vore klæder og sov. Da jeg i morgenstunden vågnede og kom op på dækket, var der ikke det mindste at se til nogen af siderne, sådan en tåge havde vi. Jeg hørte hanerne gale, fornam, at solen kom op, klokkerne klang; hvor mon vi var; tågen lettede, og vi lå såmænd endnu lige uden for Nyborg. Op ad dagen blæste endelig en smule vind, men stik imod; vi krydsede og krydsede, og endelig var vi så heldige, at vi klokken lidt over elve om aftnen nåede Korsør, da havde vi været toogtyve timer om de fire mil.
Det gjorde godt at komme i land; men mørkt var det, dårligt brændte lygterne og alt var så vildtfremmed for mig, der aldrig havde været i nogen anden by end i Odense.
"Se, her blev Baggesen født!" sagde min fader, "og her levede Birckner!"
Da syntes mig, at den gamle by med de små huse blev med ét lysere og større; vi følte os dertil så glade ved at have landjorden under os; sove kunne jeg ikke den nat over alt det meget, jeg allerede havde set og oplevet, siden jeg i forgårs tog hjemmefra.
Næste morgen måtte vi tidligt op, vi havde for os en slem vej med forfærdelige banker og mange huller til vi nåede Slagelse, og videre frem på den anden side var nok ikke stort bedre, og vi ville gerne så betids komme til Krebsehuset, at vi derfra endnu ved dag kunne gå ind i Sorø og besøge Møllers Emil, som vi kaldte ham, ja, det var eders bedstefader, min salig mand, provsten, han var student i Sorø og netop færdig der med sin anden eksamen.
Vi kom efter middag til Krebsehuset, det var et galant sted dengang, det bedste værtshus på hele rejsen og den yndigste egn, ja, det må I da alle indrømme, at den endnu er. Det var en ferm værtinde, madam Plambek, alt i huset som et glatskuret spækbræt. På væggen hang i glas og ramme Baggesens brev til hende, det var nok værd at se! mig var det en stor mærkelighed. – Så gik vi op til Sorø og traf der Emil; I kan tro, han blev glad ved at se os, og vi ved at se ham, han var så god og opmærksom. Med ham så vi da kirken med Absalons grav og Holbergs kiste; vi så de gamle munkeindskrifter, og vi sejlede over søen til "Parnasset," den dejligste aften jeg mindes! jeg syntes rigtignok, at skulle man nogensteds i verden kunne digte, måtte det være i Sorø, i denne naturens fred og dejlighed. Så gik vi i måneskin ad Filosofgangen, som de kalder det, den dejlige ensomme vej langs søen og Flommen ud mod landevejen til Krebsehuset; Emil blev og spiste med os, fader og moder fandt, at han var blevet så klog og så så godt ud. Han lovede os, at han inden fem dage skulle være i København hos sin familie og sammen med os; det var jo pinsen. De timer i Sorø og ved Krebsehuset, ja, de hører til mit livs skønneste perler! –
Næste morgen rejste vi meget tidligt, for vi havde en lang vej før vi nåede Roskilde, og der måtte vi være så betids at kirken kunne ses, og ud på aftnen fader besøge en gammel skolekammerat; det skete også og så lå vi natten over i Roskilde og dagen derpå, men først ved middagstid, for det var den værste, den mest opkørte vej, vi havde tilbage, kom vi til København. Det var omtrent tre dage, vi havde brugt fra Korsør til København, nu gør I den samme vej i tre timer. Perlerne er ikke blevet kosteligere, det kan de ikke, men snoren er bleven ny og vidunderlig. Jeg blev med mine forældre tre uger i København, Emil var vi dér sammen med i hele atten dage, og da vi så rejste tilbage til Fyn, fulgte han os lige fra København til Korsør, der blev vi forlovet før vi skiltes ad; så kan I nok forstå mig, at også jeg kalder fra København til Korsør et stykke perlesnor.
Siden, da Emil fik kald ved Assens, blev vi gift; vi talte tit om Københavnsrejsen, og om at gøre den engang igen, men så kom først eders moder, og så fik hun søskende, og der var meget at passe og tage vare på, og da nu fader forfremmedes og blev provst, ja, alt var en velsignelse og glæde, men til København kom vi ikke! aldrig kom jeg der igen, hvor tit vi tænkte derpå og talte derom, og nu er jeg blevet for gammel, har ikke legeme til at fare på jernbane; men glad ved jernbanerne er jeg! det er en velsignelse at man har dem! så kommer I hurtigere til mig! Nu er Odense jo ikke stort længere fra København, end den i min ungdom var fra Nyborg! I kan nu flyve til Italien lige så hurtigt som vi var om at rejse til København! ja det er noget! – alligevel bliver jeg siddende, jeg lader de andre rejse! lader dem komme til mig! men I skal ikke smile endda, fordi jeg sidder så stille, jeg har en anderledes stor rejse for, end eders, én, meget hurtigere, end den på jernbanerne; når Vorherre vil, rejser jeg op til "Bedstefader," og når så I har udrettet eders gerning og glædet eder her ved denne velsignede verden, så ved jeg, at I kommer op til os, og taler vi da dér om vort jordlivs dage, tro mig, børn! jeg siger også dér som nu: "Fra København til Korsør, ja, det er rigtignok et stykke perlesnor!"