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Beauty of Form and Beauty of Mind by Hans Christian Andersen

1872

FAIRY TALES OF HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN

BEAUTY OF FORM AND BEAUTY OF MIND

by Hans Christian Andersen

BEAUTY OF FORM AND BEAUTY OF MIND -

THERE was once a sculptornamed Alfredwho having won the large gold medaland obtained a travelling scholarshipwent to Italyand then came back to hisnative land. He was young at that time- indeedhe is young stillalthough heis ten years older than he was then. On his returnhe went to visit one of thelittle towns in the island of Zealand. The whole town knew who the stranger was;and one of the richest men in the place gave a party in his honorand all whowere of any consequenceor who possessed some propertywere invited. It wasquite an eventand all the town knew of itso that it was not necessary toannounce it by beat of drum. Apprentice-boyschildren of the poorand even thepoor people themselvesstood before the housewatching the lighted windows;and the watchman might easily fancy he was giving a party alsothere were somany people in the streets. There was quite an air of festivity about itandthe house was full of it; for Mr. Alfredthe sculptorwas there. He talked andtold anecdotesand every one listened to him with pleasurenot unmingled withawe; but none felt so much respect for him as did the elderly widow of a navalofficer. She seemedso far as Mr. Alfred was concernedto be like a piece offresh blotting-paper that absorbed all he said and asked for more. She was veryappreciativeand incredibly ignorant- a kind of female Gaspar Hauser.

"I should like to see Rome" she said; "it must be a lovelycityor so many foreigners would not be constantly arriving there. Nowdo giveme a description of Rome. How does the city look when you enter in at thegate?"

"I cannot very well describe it" said the sculptor; "but youenter on a large open spacein the centre of which stands an obeliskwhich isa thousand years old."

"An organist!" exclaimed the ladywho had never heard the word 'obelisk.'Several of the guests could scarcely forbear laughingand the sculptor wouldhave had some difficulty in keeping his countenancebut the smile on his lipsfaded away; for he caught sight of a pair of dark-blue eyes close by the side ofthe inquisitive lady. They belonged to her daughter; and surely no one who hadsuch a daughter could be silly. The mother was like a fountain of questions; andthe daughterwho listened but never spokemight have passed for the beautifulmaid of the fountain. How charming she was! She was a study for the sculptor tocontemplatebut not to converse with; for she did not speakorat leastveryseldom.

"Has the pope a great family?" inquired the lady.

The young man answered consideratelyas if the question had been a differentone"No; he does not come from a great family."

"That is not what I asked" persisted the widow; "I meanhashe a wife and children?"

"The pope is not allowed to marry" replied the gentleman.

"I don't like that" was the lady's remark.

She certainly might have asked more sensible questions; but if she had notbeen allowed to say just what she likedwould her daughter have been thereleaning so gracefully on her shoulderand looking straight before herwith asmile that was almost mournful on her face?

Mr. Alfred again spoke of Italyand of the glorious colors in Italianscenery; the purple hillsthe deep blue of the Mediterraneanthe azure ofsouthern skieswhose brightness and glory could only be surpassed in the northby the deep-blue eyes of a maiden; and he said this with a peculiar intonation;but she who should have understood his meaning looked quite unconscious of itwhich also was charming.

"Beautiful Italy!" sighed some of the guests.

"Ohto travel there!" exclaimed others.

"Charming! Charming!" echoed from every voice.

"I may perhaps win a hundred thousand dollars in the lottery" saidthe naval officer's widow; "and if I dowe will travel- I and my daughter;and youMr. Alfredmust be our guide. We can all three travel togetherwithone or two more of our good friends." And she nodded in such a friendly wayat the companythat each imagined himself to be the favored person who was toaccompany them to Italy. "Yeswe must go" she continued; "butnot to those parts where there are robbers. We will keep to Rome. In the publicroads one is always safe."

The daughter sighed very gently; and how much there may be in a sighorattributed to it! The young man attributed a great deal of meaning to this sigh.Those deep-blue eyeswhich had been lit up this evening in honor of himmustconceal treasurestreasures of heart and mindricher than all the glories ofRome; and so when he left the party that nighthe had lost it completely to theyoung lady. The house of the naval officer's widow was the one most constantlyvisited by Mr. Alfredthe sculptor. It was soon understood that his visits werenot intended for that ladythough they were the persons who kept up theconversation. He came for the sake of the daughter. They called her Kaela. Hername was really Karen Malenaand these two names had been contracted into theone name Kaela. She was really beautiful; but some said she was rather dullandslept late of a morning.

"She has been accustomed to that" her mother said. "She is abeautyand they are always easily tired. She does sleep rather late; but thatmakes her eyes so clear."

What power seemed to lie in the depths of those dark eyes! The young man feltthe truth of the proverb"Still waters run deep:" and his heart hadsunk into their depths. He often talked of his adventuresand the mamma was assimple and eager in her questions as on the first evening they met. It was apleasure to hear Alfred describe anything. He showed them colored plates ofNaplesand spoke of excursions to Mount Vesuviusand the eruptions of firefrom it. The naval officer's widow had never heard of them before.

"Good heavens!" she exclaimed. "So that is a burning mountain;but is it not very dangerous to the people who live near it?"

"Whole cities have been destroyed" he replied; "for instanceHerculaneum and Pompeii."

"Ohthe poor people! And you saw all that with your own eyes?"

"No; I did not see any of the eruptions which are represented in thosepictures; but I will show you a sketch of my ownwhich represents an eruption Ionce saw."

He placed a pencil sketch on the table; and mammawho had been over-poweredwith the appearance of the colored platesthrew a glance at the pale drawingand cried in astonishment"Whatdid you see it throw up white fire?"

For a momentAlfred's respect for Kaela's mamma underwent a sudden shockand lessened considerably; butdazzled by the light which surrounded Kaelahesoon found it quite natural that the old lady should have no eye for color.After allit was of very little consequence; for Kaela's mamma had the best ofall possessions; namelyKaela herself.

Alfred and Kaela were betrothedwhich was a very natural result; and thebetrothal was announced in the newspaper of the little town. Mama purchasedthirty copies of the paperthat she might cut out the paragraph and send it tofriends and acquaintances. The betrothed pair were very happyand the motherwas happy too. She said it seemed like connecting herself with Thorwalsden.

"You are a true successor of Thorwalsden" she said to Alfred; andit seemed to him as ifin this instancemamma had said a clever thing. Kaelawas silent; but her eyes shoneher lips smiledevery movement was graceful-in factshe was beautiful; that cannot be repeated too often. Alfred decided totake a bust of Kaela as well as of her mother. They sat to him accordinglyandsaw how he moulded and formed the soft clay with his fingers.

"I suppose it is only on our account that you perform this common-placework yourselfinstead of leaving it to your servant to do all that stickingtogether."

"It is really necessary that I should mould the clay myself" hereplied.

"Ahyesyou are always so polite" said mammawith a smile; andKaela silently pressed his handall soiled as it was with the clay.

Then he unfolded to them both the beauties of Naturein all her works; hepointed out to them howin the scale of creationinanimate matter was inferiorto animate nature; the plant above the mineralthe animal above the plantandman above them all. He strove to show them how the beauty of the mind could bedisplayed in the outward formand that it was the sculptor's task to seize uponthat beauty of expressionand produce it in his works. Kaela stood silentbutnodded in approbation of what he saidwhile mamma-in-law made the followingconfession:-

"It is difficult to follow you; but I go hobbling along after you withmy thoughtsthough what you say makes my head whirl round and round. Still Icontrive to lay hold on some of it."

Kaela's beauty had a firm hold on Alfred; it filled his souland held amastery over him. Beauty beamed from Kaela's every featureglittered in hereyeslurked in the corners of her mouthand pervaded every movement of heragile fingers. Alfredthe sculptorsaw this. He spoke only to herthoughtonly of herand the two became one; and so it may be said she spoke muchforhe was always talking to her; and he and she were one. Such was the betrothaland then came the weddingwith bride's-maids and wedding presentsall dulymentioned in the wedding speech. Mamma-in-law had set up Thorwalsden's bust atthe end of the tableattired in a dressing-gown; it was her fancy that heshould be a guest. Songs were sungand cheers given; for it was a gay weddingand they were a handsome pair. "Pygmalion loved his Galatea" said oneof the songs.

"Ahthat is some of your mythologies" said mamma-in-law.

Next day the youthful pair started for Copenhagenwhere they were to live;mamma-in-law accompanied themto attend to the "coarse work" as shealways called the domestic arrangements. Kaela looked like a doll in a doll'shousefor everything was bright and newand so fine. There they satall three;and as for Alfreda proverb may describe his position- he looked like a swanamongst the geese. The magic of form had enchanted him; he had looked at thecasket without caring to inquire what it containedand that omission oftenbrings the greatest unhappiness into married life. The casket may be injuredthe gilding may fall offand then the purchaser regrets his bargain.

In a large party it is very disagreeable to find a button giving waywith nostuds at hand to fall back upon; but it is worse still in a large company to beconscious that your wife and mother-in-law are talking nonsenseand that youcannot depend upon yourself to produce a little ready wit to carry off thestupidity of the whole affair.

The young married pair often sat together hand in hand; he would talkbutshe could only now and then let fall a word in the same melodious voicethesame bell-like tones. It was a mental relief when Sophyone of her friendscame to pay them a visit. Sophy was notpretty. She washoweverquite freefrom any physical deformityalthough Kaela used to say she was a little crooked;but no eyesave an intimate acquaintancewould have noticed it. She was a verysensible girlyet it never occurred to her that she might be a dangerous personin such a house. Her appearance created a new atmosphere in the doll's houseand air was really requiredthey all owned that. They felt the want of a changeof airand consequently the young couple and their mother travelled to Italy.

"Thank heaven we are at home again within our own four walls" saidmamma-in-law and daughter bothon their return after a year's absence.

"There is no real pleasure in travelling" said mamma; "totell the truthit's very wearisome; I beg pardon for saying so. I was soon verytired of italthough I had my children with me; andbesidesit's veryexpensive work travellingvery expensive. And all those galleries one isexpected to seeand the quantity of things you are obliged to run after! Itmust be donefor very shame; you are sure to be asked when you come back if youhave seen everythingand will most likely be told that you've omitted to seewhat was best worth seeing of all. I got tired at last of those endless Madonnas;I began to think I was turning into a Madonna myself."

"And then the livingmamma" said Kaela.

"Yesindeed" she replied"no such a thing as a respectablemeat soup- their cookery is miserable stuff."

The journey had also tired Kaela; but she was always fatiguedthat was theworst of it. So they sent for Sophyand she was taken into the house to residewith themand her presence there was a great advantage. Mamma-in-lawacknowledged that Sophy was not only a clever housewifebut well-informed andaccomplishedthough that could hardly be expected in a person of her limitedmeans. She was also a generous-heartedfaithful girl; she showed thatthoroughly while Kaela lay sickfading away. When the casket is everythingthecasket should be strongor else all is over. And all was over with the casketfor Kaela died.

"She was beautiful" said her mother; "she was quite differentfrom the beauties they call 'antiques' for they are so damaged. A beauty oughtto be perfectand Kaela was a perfect beauty."

Alfred weptand mamma weptand they both wore mourning. The black dresssuited mamma very welland she wore mourning the longest. She had also toexperience another grief in seeing Alfred marry again

marry Sophywho was nothing at all to look at. "He's gone to the veryextreme" said mamma-in-law; "he has gone from the most beautiful tothe ugliestand he has forgotten his first wife. Men have no constancy. Myhusband was a very different man- but then he died before me."

"'Pygmalion loved his Galatea' was in the song they sung at my firstwedding" said Alfred; "I once fell in love with a beautiful statuewhich awoke to life in my arms; but the kindred soulwhich is a gift fromheaventhe angel who can feel and sympathize with and elevate usI have notfound and won till now. You cameSophynot in the glory of outward beautythough you are even fairer than is necessary. The chief thing still remains. Youcame to teach the sculptor that his work is but dust and clay onlyan outwardform made of a material that decaysand that what we should seek to obtain isthe ethereal essence of mind and spirit. Poor Kaela! our life was but as ameeting by the way-side; in yonder worldwhere we shall know each other from aunion of mindwe shall be but mere acquaintances."

"That was not a loving speech" said Sophy"nor spoken like aChristian. In a future statewhere there is neither marrying nor giving inmarriagebut whereas you saysouls are attracted to each other by sympathy;there everything beautiful develops itselfand is raised to a higher state ofexistence: her soul will acquire such completeness that it may harmonize withyourseven more than mineand you will then once more utter your firstrapturous exclamation of your love'Beautifulmost beautiful!'"

THE END




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