Flax by Hans Christian Andersen
THE flax was in full bloom; it had pretty little blue flowers as delicate asthe wings of a mothor even more so. The sun shoneand the showers watered it;and this was just as good for the flax as it is for little children to be washedand then kissed by their mother. They look much prettier for itand so did theflax.
"People say that I look exceedingly well" said the flax"andthat I am so fine and long that I shall make a beautiful piece of linen. Howfortunate I am; it makes me so happyit is such a pleasant thing to know thatsomething can be made of me. How the sunshine cheers meand how sweet andrefreshing is the rain; my happiness overpowers meno one in the world can feelhappier than I am."
"Ahyesno doubt" said the fern"but you do not know theworld yet as well as I dofor my sticks are knotty;" and then it sungquite mournfully- -
The song is ended." -
"Noit is not ended" said the flax. "To-morrow the sun willshineor the rain descend. I feel that I am growing. I feel that I am in fullblossom. I am the happiest of all creatures."
Wellone day some people camewho took hold of the flaxand pulled it upby the roots; this was painful; then it was laid in water as if they intended todrown it; andafter thatplaced near a fire as if it were to be roasted; allthis was very shocking. "We cannot expect to be happy always" saidthe flax; "by experiencing evil as well as goodwe become wise." Andcertainly there was plenty of evil in store for the flax. It was steepedandroastedand brokenand combed; indeedit scarcely knew what was done to it.At last it was put on the spinning wheel. "Whirrwhirr" went thewheel so quickly that the flax could not collect its thoughts. "WellIhave been very happy" he thought in the midst of his pain"and mustbe contented with the past;" and contented he remained till he was put onthe loomand became a beautiful piece of white linen. All the flaxeven to thelast stalkwas used in making this one piece. "Wellthis is quitewonderful; I could not have believed that I should be so favored by fortune. Thefern was not wrong with its song of -
Basse lurre.' - But the song is not ended yetI am sure; it is only justbeginning. How wonderful it isthat after all I have sufferedI am madesomething of at last; I am the luckiest person in the world- so strong and fine;and how whiteand what a length! This is something different to being a mereplant and bearing flowers. Then I had no attentionnor any water unless itrained; nowI am watched and taken care of. Every morning the maid turns meoverand I have a shower-bath from the watering-pot every evening. Yesand theclergyman's wife noticed meand said I was the best piece of linen in the wholeparish. I cannot be happier than I am now."
After some timethe linen was taken into the houseplaced under thescissorsand cut and torn into piecesand then pricked with needles. Thiscertainly was not pleasant; but at last it was made into twelve garments of thatkind which people do not like to nameand yet everybody should wear one. "Seenowthen" said the flax; "I have become something of importance.This was my destiny; it is quite a blessing. Now I shall be of some use in theworldas everyone ought to be; it is the only way to be happy. I am now dividedinto twelve piecesand yet we are all one and the same in the whole dozen. Itis most extraordinary good fortune."
Years passed awayand at last the linen was so worn it could scarcely holdtogether. "It must end very soon" said the pieces to each other;"we would gladly have held together a little longerbut it is useless toexpect impossibilities." And at length they fell into rags and tattersandthought it was all over with themfor they were torn to shredsand steeped inwaterand made into a pulpand driedand they knew not what besidestill allat once they found themselves beautiful white paper. "Wellnowthis is asurprise; a glorious surprise too" said the paper. "I am now finerthan everand I shall be written uponand who can tell what fine things I mayhave written upon me. This is wonderful luck!" And sure enough the mostbeautiful stories and poetry were written upon itand only once was there ablotwhich was very fortunate. Then people heard the stories and poetry readand it made them wiser and better; for all that was written had a good andsensible meaningand a great blessing was contained in the words on this paper.
"I never imagined anything like this" said the paper"when Iwas only a little blue flowergrowing in the fields. How could I fancy that Ishould ever be the means of bringing knowledge and joy to man? I cannotunderstand it myselfand yet it is really so. Heaven knows that I have donenothing myselfbut what I was obliged to do with my weak powers for my ownpreservation; and yet I have been promoted from one joy and honor to another.Each time I think that the song is ended; and then something higher and betterbegins for me. I suppose now I shall be sent on my travels about the worldsothat people may read me. It cannot be otherwise; indeedit is more thanprobable; for I have more splendid thoughts written upon methan I had prettyflowers in olden times. I am happier than ever."
But the paper did not go on its travels; it was sent to the printerand allthe words written upon it were set up in typeto make a bookor rathermanyhundreds of books; for so many more persons could derive pleasure and profitfrom a printed bookthan from the written paper; and if the paper had been sentaround the worldit would have been worn out before it had got half through itsjourney.
"This is certainly the wisest plan" said the written paper;"I really did not think of that. I shall remain at homeand be held in
honorlike some old grandfatheras I really am to all these new books. Theywill do some good. I could not have wandered about as they do. Yet he who wroteall this has looked at meas every word flowed from his pen upon my surface. Iam the most honored of all."
Then the paper was tied in a bundle with other papersand thrown into a tubthat stood in the washhouse.
"After workit is well to rest" said the paper"and a verygood opportunity to collect one's thoughts. Now I am ablefor the first timeto think of my real condition; and to know one's self is true progress. Whatwill be done with me nowI wonder? No doubt I shall still go forward. I havealways progressed hithertoas I know quite well."
Now it happened one day that all the paper in the tub was taken outand laidon the hearth to be burnt. People said it could not be sold at the shopto wrapup butter and sugarbecause it had been written upon. The children in the housestood round the stove; for they wanted to see the paper burnbecause it flamedup so prettilyand afterwardsamong the ashesso many red sparks could beseen running one after the otherhere and thereas quick as the wind. Theycalled it seeing the children come out of schooland the last spark was theschoolmaster. They often thought the last spark had come; and one would cry"There goes the schoolmaster;" but the next moment another spark wouldappearshining so beautifully. How they would like to know where the sparks allwent to! Perhaps we shall find out some daybut we don't know now.
The whole bundle of paper had been placed on the fireand was soon alight."Ugh" cried the paperas it burst into a bright flame; "ugh."It was certainly not very pleasant to be burning; but when the whole was wrappedin flamesthe flames mounted up into the airhigher than the flax had everbeen able to raise its little blue flowerand they glistened as the white linennever could have glistened. All the written letters became quite red in amomentand all the words and thoughts turned to fire.
"Now I am mounting straight up to the sun" said a voice in theflames; and it was as if a thousand voices echoed the words; and the flamesdarted up through the chimneyand went out at the top. Then a number of tinybeingsas many in number as the flowers on the flax had beenand invisible tomortal eyesfloated above them. They were even lighter and more delicate thanthe flowers from which they were born; and as the flames were extinguishedandnothing remained of the paper but black ashesthese little beings danced uponit; and whenever they touched itbright red sparks appeared.
"The children are all out of schooland the schoolmaster was the lastof all" said the children. It was good funand they sang over the deadashes- -
The song is ended." -
But the little invisible beings said"The song is never ended; the mostbeautiful is yet to come."
But the children could neither hear nor understand thisnor should they; forchildren must not know everything. - -