The Tales of Hans Christian Andersen

The Old Oak Tree's Last Dream: A Christmas Story - Det gamle Egetræes sidste Drøm. (Et Jule-Eventyr.)

1860

On the outskirts of the forest, on a bank above the beach, grew an old oak tree. It was three hundred and sixty-five years old, but to the tree those years did not seem longer than as many days and nights would to a human being. We are awake during the day and sleep at night, and it is then we have our dreams. But the oak tree is awake three seasons of the year and only sleeps during the fourth. It is only in the winter that it rests; that is its night after that long day that is called spring, summer, and autumn. Der stod i Skoven, høit paa Skrænten, ved den aabne Strand, saadan et rigtigt gammelt Egetræ, det var netop tre hundrede og fem og tredsindstyve Aar, men den lange Tid var for Træet ikke mere end ligesaa mange Døgn for os Mennesker; vi vaage om Dagen, sove om Natten, og have da vore Drømme; med Træet er det anderledes, Træet er vaagent i de tre Aarstider, først mod Vinteren har det sin Søvn, Vinteren er dets Sovetid, den er dets Nat efter den lange Dag, som kaldes Foraar, Sommer og Høst.
Many a warm day the mayflies danced around its leaves and branches, soared on their fragile wings to the very crown of the tree. Ever happy were the little insects and, when they grew tired, they rested on a broad green oak leaf. Then the tree could not help saying, "Poor little you, one day is your whole life. How short, how sad is your fate!" Mangen varm Sommerdag havde Døgnfluen dandset rundt om dets Krone, levet, svævet og følt sig lykkelig, og hvilede da, et Øieblik i stille Lyksalighed, den lille Skabning paa et af de store friske Egeblade, saa sagde Træet altid: "Lille Stakkel! kun en eneste Dag er hele dit Liv i hvor kort dog! det er saa sørgeligt!"
"Sad," the mayfly always replied. "What do you mean by that? Everything is so beautiful, so warm, and so lovely; and I am so happy." "Sørgeligt!" svarede da altid Døgnfluen, "hvad mener Du dermed? Alt er jo saa mageløst lyst, saa varmt og deiligt, og jeg er saa glad!"
"But only one day and then all is over." "Men kun een Dag, og saa er Alt forbi!"
"Over," said the mayfly. "What is over? Are you over too?" "Forbi!" sagde Døgnfluen. "Hvad er forbi! er ogsaa Du forbi?"
"No, I live many thousands of your days, and my days are so long that they last almost a year, which is so long that you cannot even figure it out." "Nei, jeg lever maaskee Tusinder af dine Dage, og min Dag er hele Aarstider! Det er Noget saa langt, Du slet ikke kan udregne det!"
"I do not understand you. You live thousands of my days, but I have thousands of moments to be happy in. Do you think that all the beauty in the world will die when you do?" "Nei, for jeg forstaaer Dig ikke! Du har Tusinder af mine Dage, men jeg har Tusinder af Øieblikke til at være glad og lykkelig i! Holder al denne Verdens Deilighed op, naar Du døer?"
"No," answered the tree. "That will last much longer than even I can imagine." "Nei," sagde Træet, "den bliver vist ved længer, uendeligt længer, end jeg kan tænke det!"
"Well there, you see, we live equally long; it is just our ways of figuring that are different." "Men saa have vi jo lige Meget, kun at vi regne forskjelligt!"
And the little mayfly flew away again, up into the air, and rejoiced that it had been given such lovely fine wings. The air was filled with the scent of flowering clover from the fields, wild roses from the hedges, elder trees, honeysuckle, woodruff, primroses, and wild mint. The fragrance was so strong that the mayfly felt quite drunk from it. The day was long and beautiful, so filled with happiness, so full of joy. When finally the sun did set, the little fly felt tired from all it had experienced so intensely. The wings were no longer strong enough to carry it. Ever so gently it sank down among the soft grass, nodding its head as if it were saying yes. It slept so peacefully, so happily, and that was death. Og Døgnfluen dandsede og svang sig i Luften, glædede sig ved sine fine, kunstige Vinger, deres Flor og Fløiel, glædede sig i den varme Luft, der var saa krydret med Duft fra Kløvermarken og fra Gjerdets vilde Roser, Hyld og Kaprifolier, ikke at tale om Skovmærker, Kodriver og vilde Krusemynter; der var en Duft saa stærk, at Døgnfluen troede at have en lille Ruus af den. Dagen var lang og deilig, fuld af Glæde og sød Fornemmelse, og naar saa Solen sank, følte altid den lille Flue sig saa behagelig træt af al den Lystighed. Vingen vilde ikke længer bære den og ganske sagte gled den ned paa det bløde, gyngende Græsstraa, nikkede med Hovedet, som den kan nikke, og sov ind saa gladelig, det var Døden.
"Poor little mayfly," said the oak tree, "its life was much too short." "Stakkels lille Døgnflue!" sagde Egetræet, "det var dog altfor kort et Liv!"
Every summer the mayflies repeated their dance and the oak held the same conversation with them. Generations upon generations of mayflies died, and yet each new insect born was just as happy, just as carefree, as all those that had gone before it. The oak tree was awake through its spring morning, its summer noon, and its fall evening. It felt that soon it was time to sleep; the oak tree's night, winter, was coming. Og hver Sommerdag gjentog sig samme Dands, samme Tale, Svar og Hensoven; det gjentog sig i hele Slægter af Døgnfluer, og alle vare de lige lykkelige, lige glade. Egetræet stod vaagen sin Foraarsmorgen, Sommermiddag og Efteraarsaften, nu var det snart mod Sovetid, dets Nat, Vinteren vilde komme.
Already the storms were singing: "Good night, good night! We pluck your leaves. See, there one fell. We pluck, we pluck! We sing you to sleep. We undress you and shake your old branches; they creak but it does them good. Sleep now, sleep, it is your three hundred and sixty-fifth night, which means you are young yet. Sleep. From the clouds snow is falling, it is a warm blanket around your feet. Sleep and dream sweet dreams!" Allerede sang Stormene: "God Nat, god Nat! der faldt et Blad, der faldt et Blad! vi plukke, vi plukke! see til at Du kan sove! vi synge Dig isøvn, vi ruske Dig isøvn, men ikke sandt, det gjør godt i de gamle Grene! de knage derved af bare Fornøielse! sov sødt, sov sødt! det er din tre hundrede og fem og tredsindstyvende Nat, egentligt er Du kun en Aars-Unge! sov sødt! Skyen drysser Snee, det bliver et heelt Lagen, et luunt Sengetæppe om dine Fødder! sov sødt og drøm behageligt!"
The oak tree stood nude with its bare branches against the sky, ready to sleep through its long night, ready to dream many a dream just as human beings do. Og Egetræet stod afklædt alt sit Løv for at gaae til Ro hele den lange Vinter og i den at drømme mangen Drøm, altid noget Oplevet, ligesom i Menneskenes Drømme.
It, too, had been tiny once: an acorn had been its cradle. By human reckoning it was now in the fourth century of its life. It was the biggest tree in the forest, and its crown rose up high above the others. Sailors used it as a landmark to navigate by, and the wood pigeons built their nests in it. In the fall the migrating birds would rest among its bronze leaves before they flew south. But now in the winter its branches were naked, and only crows and jackdaws used them; they sat there discussing hard times and complaining about how difficult it was to find food, now that winter was here. Det havde ogsaa engang været lille, ja, et Agern havde været dets Vugge; efter Menneske-Regning levede det nu i et fjerde Aarhundred; det var det største og ypperste Træ i Skoven, med sin Krone ragede det høit over alle de andre Træer og blev seet langt ude fra Søen, var Skibsmærke; det tænkte slet ikke paa, hvormange Øine, der søgte det. Høit oppe i dets grønne Krone byggede Skovduerne, og Gjøgen kukkede der, og i Efteraaret, naar Bladene saae ud som hamrede Kobberplader, kom Trækfuglene og hvilede der, før de fløi hen over Søen; men nu var det Vinter, Træet stod bladløs, man kunde ret see, hvor bugtede og krogede Grenene strakte sig; Krager og Alliker kom og satte sig skifteviis der og talte om de strenge Tider, som begyndte, og hvor svært det var at faae Føden om Vinteren.
It was at the holy Christmastime that the oak tree dreamed the most beautiful dream it had ever dreamed. We shall hear it: Det var just den hellige Juletid, da drømte Træet sin deiligste Drøm; den skal vi høre.
The tree felt that something holy, something solemn and yet joyful, was happening. From every direction it heard church bells ringing. In its dream, it was not winter but the loveliest warm summer day. The branches in its great crown spread themselves out green and fresh, the sun rays played upon its leaves, and the air was filled with the fragrance of flowering trees and bushes. Colorful butterflies played hide-and-seek and the mayflies danced as if the whole world had been created just for their enjoyment. Everything the tree had seen and experienced through its long life passed by in an endless parade. It saw knights with their ladies; they were riding out to hunt, with feathers in their caps and falcons on their hands. And the tree heard the dogs bark and the sound of the hunters' horns. Then strange soldiers camped beneath its branches; they pitched their tents and made fires. The sun reflected in their shining weapons; they ate and drank and sang as if they had conquered time as well as the country. Two shy lovers came and cut their names in its bark; they were the first to do it but others would follow. Once an aeolian harp had been hung in the oak's branches by a happy youth. That had happened so many years ago, yet it hung there again in the dream; and the wind blew through it and made music. The wood pigeons cooed, and the cuckoo called out once for each year that the oak tree had left of its life; but the cuckoo is not to be trusted. Træet havde tydeligt en Fornemmelse af at det var en festlig Tid, det syntes at høre rundt om alle Kirke-Klokker ringe, og dertil var det som paa en deilig Sommerdag, mildt og varmt; det bredte ud saa frisk og grøn sin mægtige Krone, Solstraalerne spillede mellem Blade og Grene, Luften var fyldt med Duft af Urter og Buske; brogede Sommerfugle legede "Tagfat" og Døgnfluerne dandsede, som var Alt kun til for at de skulde dandse og fornøie sig. Alt, hvad Træet igjennem Aaringer havde oplevet og seet omkring sig, drog forbi, som i et heelt Fest-Optog. Det saae fra gammel Tid Riddere og Fruer til Hest, med Fjer i Hatten og med Falk paa Haand, ride gjennem Skoven; Jagthornet lød og Hundene halsede; det saae fjendtlige Soldater i blanke Vaaben og brogede Klæder, med Spyd og Hellebarder, slaae Telt op og atter tage det ned; Vagtilden blussede og der blev sjunget og sovet under Træets udstrakte Grene; det saae Kjærestefolk i stille Lykke mødes her i Maaneskin og skære deres Navne, det første Bogstav, ind i den graagrønne Bark. Cither og Æolsharpe vare engang, ja der laae Aaringer imellem, hængte op i Egens Grene af reisende, muntre Svende, nu hang de der igjen, nu klang de der igjen saa yndelig. Skovduerne kurrede, som vilde de fortælle, hvad Træet følte derved, og Gjøgen kukkede, hvormangen Sommerdag det skulde leve.
The tree felt as if a great wave of strength, of life, were passing through it. From its tiniest root, deep down in the ground, to its topmost little twigs, it experienced an awareness of life and warmth. It felt its strength increase, it was growing taller and taller. Its great crown was now enormous. As it grew, its feeling of happiness became more and more intense, and it had such a great longing for the sun that it wanted to grow right up into that golden warm sphere. Da var det, som om en ny Livs-Strømning rislede det lige ned i de mindste Rødder og op i de høiestragende Grene, lige ud i Bladene; Træet følte at det strakte sig derved, ja det fornam med Rødderne, hvorledes der ogsaa nede i Jorden var Liv og Varme; det fornam sin Styrke tage til, det voxede høiere og høiere; Stammen skjød op, der var ingen Stillestaaen, den voxede meer og altid meer, Kronen blev fyldigere, bredte sig, løftede sig, - og altsom Træet voxede, voxede ogsaa dets Velværen, dets lyksaliggjørende Længsel efter altid at naae høiere, lige op til den lysende, varme Sol.
In its dream, the tree had grown so tall that its top branches were above the clouds; flocks of birds were flying below them; even the swans could not fly above its crown. Allerede var det voxet høit op over Skyerne, der som mørke Trækfugle-Skarer, eller store hvide Svaneflokke droge hen under det.
Every leaf had become an eye that could see. All the stars were out, even though it was day, and they looked so clear, so bright, and shone as brilliantly as the eyes of children or of the lovers who met beneath the old oak tree. Og hvert af Træets Blade kunde see, som havde det Øine at see med; Stjernerne bleve synlige ved Dagen, saa store og blanke; hver af dem blinkede som et Par Øine, saa milde, saa klare; de mindede om kjendte, kjærlige Øine, Barne-Øine, Kjærestefolks-Øine, naar de mødtes under Træet.
What a wonderful moment, so full of joy! Yet in the midst of all its happiness the tree felt a longing for other trees and the bushes that grew far below it. It wished that they, too--as well as the little flowers and herbs--could lift themselves high up in the sky as it was doing, and experience its joy. The great oak tree wanted to share its godlike ecstasy. It felt that unless everyone took part in this great dream of happiness it would not be complete. This wish ran through it from root to leaves and was as strong as a human being's desires. Det var et livsaligt Øieblik, saa frydefuldt! og dog, i al den Fryd, fornam det en Længsel og Lyst efter, at alle de andre Skovens Træer dernede, alle Buske, Urter og Blomster maatte kunne løfte sig med, føle og fornemme denne Glands og Glæde. Det mægtige Egetræ i al sin Herligheds Drøm, var ikke fuldt lykkeligt, uden at have dem med Alle, Smaa og Store, og denne Følelse bævede igjennem Grene og Blade, saa inderligt, saa stærkt som i et Menneskes Bryst.
The crown of the tree swayed as its branches turned to look downward. It smelled the odor of woodruff and the stronger fragrance of violets and honeysuckle, and thought that it could hear the cuckoo call. Træets Krone bevægede sig som om det søgte og savnede, saae tilbage. Da fornam det Duft af Skovmærker og snart endnu stærkere Duft af Kaprifolier og Violer, det troede at kunne høre Gjøgen svare sig.
The top branches of the other trees of the forest now peeped through the clouds; they, too, were growing, lifting themselves up to the sky, toward the sun. Bushes and flowers followed; some of them had freed themselves from the earth and were flying. The birch, like a bolt of white lightning, passed the old oak. The whole forest was flying up toward the sky, even the brown reeds from the swamp were coming. The birds had followed the plants. On a blade of grass sat a grasshopper and played with his wings on his hind legs. Beetles and bees and all the other insects had come, and all of them shared the old oak tree's joyous ecstasy. Ja, gjennem Skyerne pippede frem Skovens grønne Toppe, det saae under sig de andre Træer voxede og løftede sig som det; Buske og Urter skjøde høit i Veiret; enkelte reve sig løs med Rod og fløi hurtigere. Birken var snarest; som en hvid Lynstraale knittrede dens slanke Stamme opad, Grenene bølgede som grønne Flor og Faner; den hele Skov-Natur, selv det brunfjedrede Rør, voxede med, og Fuglene fulgte med og sang, og paa Straaet, der som et langt, grønt, Silkebaand løst flagrede og fløi, sad Græshoppen og spillede med Vingen paa sit Skinnebeen; Oldenborrerne brummede og Bierne summede, hver Fugl sang med sit Næb, Alt var Sang og Glæde lige ind i Himlen.
"But where are the little blue flowers from the pond?" shouted the oak tree. "And the red harebell and the little primrose?" The old oak did not want anyone to be forgotten. "Men den lille blaa Blomst ved Vandet, den skulde ogsaa med!" sagde Egetræet; "og den røde Klokkeblomst! og den lille Gaaseurt!" -ja Egen vilde have dem Allesammen med!
"We are here, we are here!" sang voices all around it. "Vi er med! vi er med!" sang og klang det.
"But the woodruff from last summer and all the lilies of the valley from the summer before that, where are they? I remember the year when the wild apples bloomed so beautifully. Oh, so much beauty do I recall through all the years of my life! If it only were all alive now and could be with us!" "Men de smukke Skovmærker fra forrige Sommer - og Aaret forud var her et Flor af Lilieconvaller -! og det vilde Æbletræ, hvor stod det deiligt - og al den Skovpragt i Aaringer, i mange Aaringer -! havde den dog levet og blevet til nu, saa havde den dog ogsaa kunnet være med!"
"We are, we are," came cries from somewhere higher up; they must have flown there earlier. "Vi er med! vi er med!" sang og klang det endnu høiere oppe, det syntes, som om de vare fløine foran.
"That is the most marvelous of all," rejoiced the old oak tree. "Everything that I have known is here. Nothing has been forgotten, not the tiniest flower or the smallest bird. How is such joy possible? Where is such happiness conceivable?" "Nei, det er altfor utroligt deiligt!" jublede den gamle Eeg. "Jeg har dem Allesammen! Smaa og Store! ikke Een er glemt! hvor er dog al den Lyksalighed mulig og tænkelig!"
"In heaven it is possible," sang the voices. "I Guds Himmel er den mulig og tænkelig!" klang det.
And the tree felt its roots loosen their grasp on the earth. Og Træet, der altid voxede, fornam at dets Rødder løsnede sig fra Jorden.
"Yes, that is best!" the oak cried. "Now no bands hold me down. I can fly up into the everlasting light, the eternal glory! And all that I held dear is with me. None has been forgotten, all are here with me, "Det er nu det Allerbedste!" sagde Træet, "nu holder mig ingen Baand! jeg kan flyve op til det Allerhøieste i Lys og Glands! og alle Kjære har jeg med! Smaa og Store! Alle med!"
all!" "Alle!"
That was the oak tree's dream; and while it was dreaming a great storm blew across the sea and the land. The waves rushed toward the shore and were crushed on the beach, and the wind tore at the old oak tree's branches. Just at the moment when it dreamed that its roots gave way, in its flight toward heaven, it was torn from the ground by the wind and fell. Its three hundred and sixty-five years of life were now as a day is for the mayfly. Det var Egetræets Drøm, og medens det drømte gik en voldsom Storm hen over Hav og Land i den hellige Julenat; Søen væltede tunge Bølger mod Stranden, Træet knagede, bragede og rykkedes op med Rod, netop idet det drømte, at dets Rødder løsnede sig. Det faldt. Dets tre hundrede og fem og tredsindstyve Aar var nu som en Dag for Døgnfluen.
Christmas morning the sea had calmed and the storm was over. The church bells were gaily ringing, and above each house, even the smallest and poorest cottages, a blue ribbon of smoke rose from the chimney, like the smoke at a Druid feast of thanksgiving. The sea grew calmer and calmer, and on board the big ships, which the night before had been so hard pressed by the storm, the sailors hoisted gay colorful flags in the rigging to celebrate the holy day. Julemorgen, da Solen kom frem, havde Stormen lagt sig; alle Kirkeklokker ringede festlig, og fra hver Skorsteen, selv den mindste paa Huusmandens Tag, løftede sig Røgen blaalig som fra Alteret ved Druidens Fest, Takkens Offerrøg. Søen blev mere og mere stille, og paa et stort Fartøi derude, der i Natten havde vel overstaaet det haarde Veir, heisedes nu alle Flag, julefestligt og smukt.
"The big tree is gone! The old oak tree we used as a landmark!" the sailors shouted, amazed. "It fell in the storm. What shall we use now? There is none that can replace it." "Træet er borte! Det gamle Egetræ, vort Mærke paa Landet!" sagde Søfolkene. "Det er faldet i denne Storm-Nat! Hvo skal kunne erstatte det; det kan Ingen!"
That was the old oak tree's funeral sermon; it was short but well meant. The tree itself lay stretched out on the snow-covered beach. From the ship came the sound of the sailors singing a carol about the joyful season, when Christ was born to save mankind and give us eternal life. The sailors were singing of the same dream, the beautiful dream that the old oak tree had dreamed Christmas Eve: the last night of its life. Saadan Ligtale, kort, men velmeent, fik Træet, der laae udstrakt paa Sneetæppet ved Stranden; og hen over det klang Psalmesang fra Skibet, Sangen om Julens Glæde og Menneskenes Sjæls Frelse i Christo og det evige Liv:
  "Syng høit i Sky, Guds Kirkeflok! Halleluja, nu har vi nok, Den Fryd er uden Lige! Halleluja, Halleluja!"
  saa lød den gamle Psalme, og hver derude paa Skibet løftedes paa sin Viis ved den og Bønnen, ret som det gamle Træ løftede sig i sin sidste, sin deiligste Drøm Julenat.

Copyright Anchor Books Doubleday
Hans Christian Andersen:
The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories

Translated from Danish by Erik Christian Haugaard

Copyright:
The Hans Christian Andersen Project