|Right next to the green
embankment that surrounds Copenhagen and once was part of its
defenses stands a large building with many windows; in each
is a potted plant. Poverty has stamped its mark both on the
outside and the inside of the building; this is Vartov, a home
for the aged poor.
||Ud til den grønne Vold,
der gaaer rundt om Kjøbenhavn, ligger en stor, rød Gaard med
mange Vinduer, i dem voxer Balsaminen og Ambratræet; fattigt
seer der ud derindenfor, og fattige gamle Folk boe der. Det
|An old maid is leaning
out of the window; she picks a dead leaf from the balsam plant
that stands on the window sill, and looks out at the children
who are playing on the embankment. What is she thinking about?
She is reliving the drama of a life.
||See! op til Vindueskarmen
læner sig en gammel Pige, hun plukker det visne Blad af Balsaminen
og seer ud paa den grønne Vold, hvor lystige Børn tumle sig;
hvad tænker hun paa? Et Livs Drama ruller op for Tanken.
|How happily the poor
children are playing. They have healthy red cheeks and shiny
eyes but are wearing neither stockings nor shoes. They are dancing
on the green grass, at the very place where, according to an
old legend, a child was offered. In ancient times, when the
first embankment was being built here, for the defense of the
city, the ramparts sank as fast as they were constructed. An
innocent child was lured with flowers, cakes, and toys into
an open tomb; and while the little one ate and played, he was
sealed in. From then on the ramparts stood on solid ground and
the embankment was soon covered by grass. The little children
playing there now do not know the legend; if they did they would
be able to hear the little child crying from under the ground,
and the dew in the morning would seem to them like tears. They
do not even know the story of the King of Denmark who rode on
that very embankment when the enemy had surrounded the city
and swore that he would die in his nest. It was the dead of
winter when the enemy attacked, and the foreign soldiers put
white shirts over their uniforms. The men and women of the city
poured boiling water down over them, as they crawled over the
||De fattige Smaa, hvor
lykkeligt de lege! hvilke røde Kinder, hvilke velsignede Øine,
men hverken Skoe eller Strømper have de paa! de dandse paa den
grønne Vold der, hvor Sagnet fortæller at for mange Aar tilbage,
da Jorden der altid sank, blev et uskyldigt Barn lokket med
Blomster og Legetøi ind i den aabne Grav, som de murede til
medens den Lille legede og spiste. Da laae Volden fast og bar
snart et deiligt Grønsvær. De Smaa kjende ikke Sagnet, ellers
vilde de høre Barnet græde endnu dernede under Jorden, og Duggen
paa Græsset vilde synes dem de brændende Taarer. De kjende ikke
Historien om Danmarks Konge, der da Fjenden laae udenfor, red
her forbi, og svor, han vilde døe i sin Rede; da kom Qvinder
og Mænd, de gjøde kogende Vand ned over de hvidklædte Fjender,
som i Sneen kravlede op ad den ydre Voldside.
|Gaily do the children
of the poor play.
||Lystigt lege de fattige
|Play, little girl, play,
the years will pass: the blessed years. Soon you will be fourteen
and confirmed; then you will walk, hand in hand, with the other
little girls, here on the green embankment. Your white dress
will have cost your mother more than she can spare; and that
even though it will be made out of an old dress she has bought
cheaply. You will be given a red shawl which, like your other
clothes, will be too big. It will hang almost to the ground.
But then people can see that it is a proper grown-up shawl.
You will be thinking about your pretty dress and about God,
and what happened in church. It is lovely to walk here on the
ramparts. The years will pass with many unhappy days to darken
even a youthful heart. At last you will have a friend; you will
meet a young man. Together you now walk on the embankment in
the green grass. It is early in the year; the violets are not
blooming yet, but down at Rosenborg, the royal castle, you stop
to admire a young tree that already has large buds. Yes, every
year the trees have new, fresh leaves; but that is not true
of the human heart. Through the hearts of men, more dark clouds
drift than the sky of the north will ever know. Poor young girl,
your bridegroom's bridal chamber was a coffin and you became
an old maid. From your little room in Vartov with the green
balsam plant on the window sill, you look out at the playing
children and imagine that you see your own story repeated.
||Leg, du lille Pige!
snart komme Aarene - ja, de velsignede Aar: Confirmanterne spadsere
Haand i Haand, Du gaaer i hvid Kjole, den har kostet din Moder
nok, og dog er den syet om af en større, gammel! Du faaer et
rødt Shawl, det hænger Dig forlangt ned, men saa kan man see,
hvor stort det er, hvor altfor stort! Du tænker paa din Stads
og paa den gode Gud. Deilig er en Vandring paa Volden! Og Aarene
gaae med mange mørke Dage, men med Ungdomssind, og Du faaer
en Ven, Du veed det ikke! I mødes; I vandre paa Volden i det
tidlige Foraar, naar alle Kirkeklokker ringe paa store Bededag.
Der er endnu ikke Violer at finde, men udfor Rosenborg staaer
der et Træ med de første grønne Knopper, der standse I. Hvert
Aar skyder Træet grønne Grene, det gjør ikke Hjertet i Menneskets
Bryst, gjennem dette glide flere mørke Skyer, end Norden kjender.
Stakkels Barn, din Brudgoms Brudekammer bliver Liigkisten, og
Du bliver en gammel Pige; fra Vartou seer Du bag Balsaminen
ud paa de legende Børn, seer din Historie gjentages.
|This was the life story
that the old maid relived as she looked at the sun-filled ramparts
where the red-cheeked, barefoot children shouted with joy, like
all the other little birds of the heavens.
||Og det er just det Livs-Drama,
der ruller op for den gamle Pige, der seer ud paa Volden, hvor
Solen skinner, hvor Børnene med røde Kinder og uden Strømper
og Skoe juble, som alle de andre Himlens Fugle.