Fragrance in Literature-Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen (April 2, 1805 – August 4, 1875) was a Danish author and poet noted for his children's stories. These include "The Steadfast Tin Soldier", "The Snow Queen", "The Little Mermaid", "Thumbelina", "The Little Match Girl", and the "The Ugly Duckling".
During his lifetime he was acclaimed for having delighted children worldwide, and was feted by royalty. His poetry and stories have been translated into more than 150 languages. They have inspired motion pictures, plays, ballets, and animated films.[1]

Those who wish to explore more about his life can do so at:

Literature by and about Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen Center

Pictures of Sweden, by Hans Christian Andersen

The old trees in the churchyard cast their shade over ancient graves. Where is the district's "Old Mortality," who weeds the grass, and explains the ancient memorials? Large granite stones are laid here in the form of coffins, ornamented with rude carvings from the times of Catholicism. The old church-door creaks in the hinges. We stand within its walls, where the vaulted roof was filled for centuries with the fragrance of incense, with monks, and with the song of the choristers. Now it is still and mute here: the old men in their monastic dresses have passed into their graves; the blooming boys that swung the censer are in their graves; the congregation—many generations—all in their graves; but the church still stands the same. The moth-eaten, dusty cowls, and the bishops' mantle, from the days of the cloister, hang in the old oak presses; and old manuscripts, half eaten up by the rats, lie strewed about on the shelves in the sacristy.
In the left aisle of the church there still stands, and has stood time out of mind, a carved image of wood, painted in various colours which are still strong: it is the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus. Fresh flower wreaths are hung around hers and the child's head; fragrant garlands are twined around the pedestal, as festive as on Madonna's birthday feast in the times of Popery. The young folks who have been confirmed, have this day, on receiving the sacrament for the first time, ornamented this old image—nay, even set the priest's name in flowers upon the altar; and he has, to our astonishment, let it remain there.
The image of Madonna seems to have become young by the fresh wreaths: the fragrant flowers here have a power like that of poetry—they bring back the days of past centuries to our own times. It is as if the extinguished glory around the head shone again; the flowers exhale perfume: it is as if incense again streamed through the aisles of the church—it shines around the altar as if the consecrated tapers were lighted—it is a sunbeam through the window.

Grandmother has a psalm-book with thick silver clasps, and in that book she often reads. In the middle of it lies a rose, which is quite flat and dry; but it is not so pretty as the roses she has in the glass, yet she smiles the kindliest to it, nay, even tears come into her eyes!
Why does Grandmother look thus on the withered flower in the old book? Do you know why?
Every time that Grandmother's tears fall on the withered flower the colours become fresher; the rose then swells and the whole room is filled with fragrance; the walls sink as if they were but mists; and round about, it is the green, the delightful grove, where the sun shines between the leaves. And Grandmother—yes, she is quite young; she is a beautiful girl, with yellow hair, with round red cheeks, pretty and charming—no rose is fresher. Yet the eyes, the mild, blissful eyes,—yes, they are still Grandmother's! By her side sits a man, young and strong: he presents the rose to her and she smiles. Yet grandmother does not smile so,—yes; the smile comes,—he is gone.—Many thoughts and many forms go past! That handsome man is gone; the rose lies in the psalm-book, and grandmother,—yes, she again sits like an old woman, and looks on the withered rose that lies in the book.

It is commonly said, that Memory is a young girl with light blue eyes. Most poets say so; but we cannot always agree with most poets. To us memory comes in quite different forms, all according to that land, or that town to which she belongs. Italy sends her as a charming Mignon, with black eyes and a melancholy smile, singing Bellini's soft, touching songs. From Scotland Memory's sprite appears as a powerful lad with bare knees; the plaid hangs over his shoulder, the thistle-flower is fixed on his cap; Burns's songs then fill the air like the heath-lark's song, and Scotland's wild thistle flowers beautifully fragrant as the fresh rose. But now for Memory's sprite from Sweden, from Upsala. He comes thence in the form of a student—at least, he wears the Upsala student's white cap with the black rim. To us it points out its home, as the Phrygian cap denotes Ganymede.

The withered oak-leaf in the book here, is a memorial of the friend—the friend of his school-days—the friend for life. He fixed this leaf on the student's cap in the green wood, when the vow of friendship was concluded for the whole of life. Where does he now live? The leaf is preserved; friendship forgotten. Here is a foreign conservatory-plant, too fine for the gardens of the North—it looks as if there still were fragrance in these leaves!—she gave it to him—she, the young lady of that noble garden.

The tap-room, where the peasant sits and carouse, is just as finely hung round with green. Midsummer raises its leafy arbour everywhere, yet it is most flush in the forest—it extends for miles around. Our road goes for miles through that forest, without seeing a house, or the possibility of meeting travellers, driving, riding or walking. Come! The ostler puts fresh horses to the carriage; come with us into the large woody desert: we have a regular trodden way to travel, the air is clear, here is summer's warmth and the fragrance of birch and lime. It is an up and down hill road, always bending, and so, ever changing, but yet always forest scenery—the close, thick forest. We pass small lakes, which lie so still and deep, as if they concealed night and sleep under their dark, glassy surfaces.

How solitary it is here!—so delightfully solitary! one is so entirely alone with God and one's self. As the sunlight streams forth over the earth, and over the extensive solitary forests, so does God's spirit stream over and into mankind; ideas and thoughts unfold themselves—endless, inexhaustible, as he is—as the magnet which apportions its powers to the steel, and itself loses nothing thereby. As our journey through the forest-scenery here along the extended solitary road, so, travelling on the great high-road of thought, ideas pass through our head. Strange, rich caravans pass by from the works of poets, from the home of memory, strange and novel—for capricious fancy gives birth to them at the moment. There comes a procession of pious children with waving flags and joyous songs; there come dancing Moenades, the blood's wild Bacchantes. The sun pours down hot in the open forest: it is as if the Southern summer had laid itself up here to rest in Scandinavian forest-solitude, and sought itself out a glade where it might lie in the sun's hot beams and sleep: hence this stillness, as if it were night. Not a bird is heard to twitter, not a pine-tree moves: of what does the Southern summer dream here in the North, amongst pines and fragrant birches?

The sun now ceases to shine; some few rain-drops fall, and now it is a steady rain. But how it causes the birch to shed its fragrance! At a distance there are huts erected, of loose trunks of trees and fresh green boughs, and in each there is a large fire burning. See where the blue smoke curls through the green leafy roof; peasants are within at work, hammering and forging; here they have their meals. They are now laying a mine in order to blast a rock, and the rain falls faster and faster, and the pine and birch emit a finer fragrance. It is delightful in the forest.

We did not find the host at home; but hospitality is always the house-fairy here. We had everything good and homely. Fish and wild fowl were placed before us, steaming and fragrant, and almost as quickly as in beautiful enchanted palaces. The garden itself was a piece of enchantment. Here stood three transplanted beech-trees, and they throve well. The sharp north wind had rounded off the tops of the wild chesnut-trees of the avenue in a singular manner: they looked as if they had been under the gardener's shears. Golden-yellow oranges hung in the conservatory; the splendid southern exotics had to-day got the windows half open, so that the artificial warmth met the fresh, warm, sunny air of the northern summer.

It was in the library's saloon. Book-shelves with many books, old and new, were ranged around for every one; manuscripts lay there in heaps; there were also maps and globes. There sat industrious men at little tables, and wrote out and wrote in, and that was no easy work. But suddenly, a great transformation took place; the shelves became terraces for the noblest trees, with flowers and fruit; heavy clusters of grapes hung amongst leafy vines, and there was life and movement all around.
The old folios and dusty manuscripts rose into flower-covered tumuli, and there sprang forth knights in mail, and kings with golden crowns on, and there was the clang of harp and shield; history acquired the life and fullness of poetry—for a poet had entered there. He saw the living visions; breathed the flowers' fragrance; crushed the grapes, and drank the sacred juice. But he himself knew not yet that he was a poet—the bearer of-light for times and generations yet to come.
It was in the fresh, fragrant forest, in the last hour of leave-taking. Love's kiss, as the farewell, was the initiatory baptism for the future poetic life; and the fresh fragrance of the forest became sweeter, the chirping of the birds more melodious: there came sunlight and cooling breezes. Nature becomes doubly delightful where a poet walks.

In the garden of Paradise, under the tree of knowledge, stood a hedge of roses. In the first rose a bird was hatched; its flight was like that of light, its colours beautiful, its song magnificent.
But when Eve plucked the fruit of knowledge, when she and Adam were driven from the garden of Paradise, a spark from the avenging angel's flaming sword fell into the bird's nest and kindled it. The bird died in the flames, but from the red egg there flew a new one—the only one—the ever only bird Phoenix. The legend states that it takes up its abode in Arabia; that every hundred years it burns itself up in its nest, and that a new Phoenix, the only one in the world, flies out from the red egg.
The bird hovers around us, rapid as the light, beautiful in colour, glorious in song. When the mother sits by the child's cradle, it is by the pillow, and with its wings flutters a glory around the child's head. It flies through the chamber of contentment, and there is the sun's radiance within:—the poor chest of drawers is odoriferous with violets.

Rays of beauty shoot forth into the world from Versailles' painted divinity; they reach the Mälar's strand into Tessin's[J] palace, where art and science are invited as guests with the King, Gustavus the Third, whose effigy cast in bronze is raised on the strand before the splendid palace—it is in our times. The acacia shades the palace's high terrace on whose broad balustrades flowers send forth their perfume from Saxon porcelain; variegated silk curtains hang half-way down before the large glass windows; the floors are polished smooth as a mirror, and under the arch yonder, where the roses grow by the wall, the Endymion of Greece lives eternally in marble. As a guard of honour here, stand Fogelberg's Odin, and Sergei's Amor and Psyche.