A Danish Romance
by Hans Christian Andersen
Author of the "Improvisatore" and the "Two Baronesses"
"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
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
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
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
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 Fuenen 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
in Latin--informed the guests that each should bring
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 Copenhagen.
"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
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! Joergen shall be
magister bibendi, and then we will sing 'Gaudeamus igitur,' and 'Integer
"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,
"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
"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
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
such pleasure, that he presented the poor sinner
"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
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 verbalexamination
could not bring higher than non.
Thostrup is certainly a glorious
fellow. We have made a tour together
in the steamboat
from Helsingoeer 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 him."
"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
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 be 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
Among those who were the earliest to make their valete amici was the
Baron. Several were not yet inclined to quit this joyous
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
and opened the door; there was no one within; he thrust
himself; but no, the carriage
"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
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 musician.
"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
"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
two blew a duet."
"Here, take hold!" cried one of the merry brothers, quickly opening
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
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
The watchmen now came up.
"The deuce! where art thou?" cried they, and then discovered the place.
"Ah, God help me!" cried the prisoner. "Let me out, let me out! I must
"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
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