Metal Pig by Hans Christian Andersen
IN the city of Florencenot far from the Piazza del Granducaruns a littlestreet called Porta Rosa. In this streetjust in front of the market-placewhere vegetables are soldstands a pigmade of brass and curiously formed. Thebright color has been changed by age to dark green; but clearfresh water poursfrom the snoutwhich shines as if it had been polishedand so indeed it hasfor hundreds of poor people and children seize it in their hands as they placetheir mouths close to the mouth of the animalto drink. It is quite a pictureto see a half-naked boy clasping the well-formed creature by the headas hepresses his rosy lips against its jaws. Every one who visits Florence can veryquickly find the place; he has only to ask the first beggar he meets for theMetal Pigand he will be told where it is.
It was late on a winter evening; the mountains were covered with snowbutthe moon shone brightlyand moonlight in Italy is like a dull winter's day inthe north; indeed it is betterfor clear air seems to raise us above the earthwhile in the north a coldgrayleaden sky appears to press us down to eartheven as the cold damp earth shall one day press on us in the grave. In thegarden of the grand duke's palaceunder the roof of one of the wingswhere athousand roses bloom in wintera little ragged boy had been sitting the wholeday long; a boywho might serve as a type of Italylovely and smilingand yetstill suffering. He was hungry and thirstyyet no one gave him anything; andwhen it became darkand they were about to close the gardensthe porter turnedhim out. He stood a long time musing on the bridge which crosses the Arnoandlooking at the glittering starsreflected in the water which flowed between himand the elegant marble bridge Della Trinita. He then walked away towards theMetal Pighalf knelt downclasped it with his armsand then put his mouth tothe shining snout and drank deep draughts of the fresh water. Close bylay afew salad-leaves and two chestnutswhich were to serve for his supper. No onewas in the street but himself; it belonged only to himso he boldly seatedhimself on the pig's backleaned forward so that his curly head could rest onthe head of the animalandbefore he was awarehe fell asleep.
It was midnight. The Metal Pig raised himself gentlyand the boy heard himsay quite distinctly"Hold tightlittle boyfor I am going to run;"and away he started for a most wonderful ride. Firstthey arrived at the Piazzadel Granducaand the metal horse which bears the duke's statueneighed aloud.The painted coats-of-arms on the old council-house shone like transparentpicturesand Michael Angelo's David tossed his sling; it was as if everythinghad life. The metallic groups of figuresamong which were Perseus and the Rapeof the Sabineslooked like living personsand cries of terror sounded fromthem all across the noble square. By the Palazzo degli Uffiziin the arcadewhere the nobility assemble for the carnivalthe Metal Pig stopped. "Holdfast" said the animal; "hold fastfor I am going up stairs."
The little boy said not a word; he was half pleased and half afraid. Theyentered a long gallerywhere the boy had been before. The walls wereresplendent with paintings; here stood statues and bustsall in a clear lightas if it were day. But the grandest appeared when the door of a side room opened;the little boy could remember what beautiful things he had seen therebutto-night everything shone in its brightest colors. Here stood the figure of abeautiful womanas beautifully sculptured as possible by one of the greatmasters. Her graceful limbs appeared to move; dolphins sprang at her feetandimmortality shone from her eyes. The world called her the Venus de' Medici. Byher side were statuesin which the spirit of life breathed in stone; figures ofmenone of whom whetted his swordand was named the Grinder; wrestlinggladiators formed another groupthe sword had been sharpened for themand theystrove for the goddess of beauty. The boy was dazzled by so much glitter; forthe walls were gleaming with bright colorsall appeared living reality.
As they passed from hall to hallbeauty everywhere showed itself; and as theMetal Pig went step by step from one picture to the otherthe little boy couldsee it all plainly. One glory eclipsed another; yet there was one picture thatfixed itself on the little boy's memorymore especially because of the happychildren it representedfor these the little boy had seen in daylight. Manypass this picture by with indifferenceand yet it contains a treasure of poeticfeeling; it represents Christ descending into Hades. They are not the lost whomthe spectator seesbut the heathen of olden times. The FlorentineAngioloBronzinopainted this picture; most beautiful is the expression on the face ofthe two childrenwho appear to have full confidence that they shall reachheaven at last. They are embracing each otherand one little one stretches outhis hand towards another who stands below himand points to himselfas if hewere saying"I am going to heaven." The older people stand as ifuncertainyet hopefuland they bow in humble adoration to the Lord Jesus. Onthis picture the boy's eyes rested longer than on any other: the Metal Pig stoodstill before it. A low sigh was heard. Did it come from the picture or from theanimal? The boy raised his hands towards the smiling childrenand then the Pigran off with him through the open vestibule.
"Thank youthank youyou beautiful animal" said the little boycaressing the Metal Pig as it ran down the steps.
"Thanks to yourself also" replied the Metal Pig; "I havehelped you and you have helped mefor it is only when I have an innocent childon my back that I receive the power to run. Yes; as you seeI can even ventureunder the rays of the lampin front of the picture of the Madonnabut I maynot enter the church; still from withoutand while you are upon my backI maylook in through the open door. Do not get down yetfor if you dothen I shallbe lifelessas you have seen me in the Porta Rosa."
"I will stay with youmy dear creature" said the little boy. Sothen they went on at a rapid pace through the streets of Florencetill theycame to the square before the church of Santa Croce. The folding-doors flewopenand light streamed from the
altar through the church into the deserted square. A wonderful blaze of lightstreamed from one of the monuments in the left-side aisleand a thousand movingstars seemed to form a glory round it; even the coat-of-arms on the tomb-stoneshoneand a red ladder on a blue field gleamed like fire. It was the grave ofGalileo. The monument is unadornedbut the red ladder is an emblem of artsignifying that the way to glory leads up a shining ladderon which theprophets of mind rise to heavenlike Elias of old. In the right aisle of thechurch every statue on the richly carved sarcophagi seemed endowed with life.Here stood Michael Angelo; there Dantewith the laurel wreath round his brow;Alfieri and Machiavelli; for here side by side rest the great men- the pride ofItaly. The church itself is very beautifuleven more beautiful than the marblecathedral at Florencethough not so large. It seemed as if the carved vestmentsstirredand as if the marble figures they covered raised their heads highertogaze upon the brightly colored glowing altar where the white-robed boys swungthe golden censersamid music and songwhile the strong fragrance of incensefilled the churchand streamed forth into the square. The boy stretched forthhis hands towards the lightand at the same moment the Metal Pig started againso rapidly that he was obliged to cling tightly to him. The wind whistled in hisearshe heard the church door creak on its hinges as it closedand it seemedto him as if he had lost his senses- then a cold shudder passed over himand heawoke.
It was morning; the Metal Pig stood in its old place on the Porta Rosaandthe boy found he had slipped nearly off its back. Fear and trembling came uponhim as he thought of his mother; she had sent him out the day before to get somemoneyhe had not done soand now he was hungry and thirsty. Once more heclasped the neck of his metal horsekissed its noseand nodded farewell to it.Then he wandered away into one of the narrowest streetswhere there wasscarcely room for a loaded donkey to pass. A great iron-bound door stood ajar;he passed throughand climbed up a brick staircasewith dirty walls and a ropefor a balustradetill he came to an open gallery hung with rags. From here aflight of steps led down to a courtwhere from a well water was drawn up byiron rollers to the different stories of the houseand where the water-bucketshung side by side. Sometimes the roller and the bucket danced in the airsplashing the water all over the court. Another broken-down staircase led fromthe galleryand two Russian sailors running down it almost upset the poor boy.They were coming from their nightly carousal. A woman not very youngwith anunpleasant face and a quantity of black hairfollowed them. "What have youbrought home?" she asked. when she saw the boy.
"Don't be angry" he pleaded; "I received nothingI havenothing at all;" and he seized his mother's dress and would have kissed it.Then they went into a little room. I need not describe itbut only say thatthere stood in it an earthen pot with handlesmade for holding firewhich inItaly is called a marito. This pot she took in her lapwarmed her fingersandpushed the boy with her elbow.
"Certainly you must have some money" she said. The boy began tocryand then she struck him with her foot till he cried out louder.
"Will you be quiet? or I'll break your screaming head;" and sheswung about the fire-pot which she held in her handwhile the boy crouched tothe earth and screamed.
Then a neighbor came inand she had also a marito under her arm."Felicita" she said"what are you doing to the child?"
"The child is mine" she answered; "I can murder him if I likeand you tooGiannina." And then she swung about the fire-pot. The otherwoman lifted up hers to defend herselfand the two pots clashed together soviolently that they were dashed to piecesand fire and ashes flew about theroom. The boy rushed out at the sightsped across the courtyardand fled fromthe house. The poor child ran till he was quite out of breath; at last hestopped at the churchthe doors of which were opened to him the night beforeand went in. Here everything was brightand the boy knelt down by the firsttomb on his rightthe grave of Michael Angeloand sobbed as if his heart wouldbreak. People came and wentmass was performedbut no one noticed the boyexcepting an elderly citizenwho stood still and looked at him for a momentand then went away like the rest. Hunger and thirst overpowered the childandhe became quite faint and ill. At last he crept into a corner behind the marblemonumentsand went to sleep. Towards evening he was awakened by a pull at hissleeve; he started upand the same old citizen stood before him.
"Are you ill? where do you live? have you been here all day?" weresome of the questions asked by the old man. After hearing his answersthe oldman took him home to a small house close byin a back street. They entered aglovemaker's shopwhere a woman sat sewing busily. A little white poodlesoclosely shaven that his pink skin could plainly be seenfrisked about the roomand gambolled upon the boy.
"Innocent souls are soon intimate" said the womanas she caressedboth the boy and the dog. These good people gave the child food and drinkandsaid he should stay with them all nightand that the next day the old manwhowas called Giuseppewould go and speak to his mother. A little homely bed wasprepared for himbut to him who had so often slept on the hard stones it was aroyal couchand he slept sweetly and dreamed of the splendid pictures and ofthe Metal Pig. Giuseppe went out the next morningand the poor child was notglad to see him gofor he knew that the old man was gone to his motherandthatperhapshe would have to go back. He wept at the thoughtand then heplayed with the littlelively dogand kissed itwhile the old woman lookedkindly at him to encourage him. And what news did Giuseppe bring back? At firstthe boy could not hearfor he talked a great deal to his wifeand she noddedand stroked the boy's cheek.
Then she said"He is a good ladhe shall stay with ushe may become aclever glovemakerlike you. Look what delicate fingers he has got; Madonnaintended him for a glovemaker." So the boy stayed with themand the womanherself taught him to sew; and he ate welland slept welland became verymerry. But at last he began to tease Bellissimaas the little dog was called.This made the woman angryand she scolded him and threatened himwhich madehim very unhappyand he went and sat in his own room full of sad thoughts. Thischamber looked upon the streetin which hung skins to dryand there were thickiron bars across his window. That night he lay awakethinking of the Metal Pig;indeedit was always in his thoughts. Suddenly he fancied he heard feet outsidegoing pit-a-pat. He sprung out of bed and went to the window. Could it be theMetal Pig? But there was nothing to be seen; whatever he had heard had passedalready. Next morningtheir neighborthe artistpassed bycarrying apaint-box and a large roll of canvas.
"Help the gentleman to carry his box of colors" said the woman tothe boy; and he obeyed instantlytook the boxand followed the painter. Theywalked on till they reached the picture galleryand mounted the same staircaseup which he had ridden that night on the Metal Pig. He remembered all thestatues and picturesthe beautiful marble Venusand again he looked at theMadonna with the Saviour and St. John. They stopped before the picture byBronzinoin which Christ is represented as standing in the lower worldwiththe children smiling before Himin the sweet expectation of entering
heaven; and the poor boy smiledtoofor here was his heaven.
"You may go home now" said the painterwhile the boy stoodwatching himtill he had set up his easel.
"May I see you paint?" asked the boy; "may I see you put thepicture on this white canvas?"
"I am not going to paint yet" replied the artist; then he broughtout a piece of chalk. His hand moved quicklyand his eye measured the greatpicture; and though nothing appeared but a faint linethe figure of the Saviourwas as clearly visible as in the colored picture.
"Why don't you go?" said the painter. Then the boy wandered homesilentlyand seated himself on the tableand learned to sew gloves. But allday long his thoughts were in the picture gallery; and so he pricked his fingersand was awkward. But he did not tease Bellissima. When evening cameand thehouse door stood openhe slipped out. It was a brightbeautifulstarlighteveningbut rather cold. Away he went through the already-deserted streetsandsoon came to the Metal Pig; he stooped down and kissed its shining noseandthen seated himself on its back.
"You happy creature" he said; "how I have longed for you! wemust take a ride to-night."
But the Metal Pig lay motionlesswhile the fresh stream gushed forth fromits mouth. The little boy still sat astride on its backwhen he felt somethingpulling at his clothes. He looked downand there was Bellissimalittlesmooth-shaven Bellissimabarking as if she would have said"Here I am too;why are you sitting there?"
A fiery dragon could not have frightened the little boy so much as did thelittle dog in this place. "Bellissima in the streetand not dressed!"as the old lady called it; "what would be the end of this?"
The dog never went out in winterunless she was attired in a little lambskincoat which had been made for her; it was fastened round the little dog's neckand body with red ribbonsand was decorated with rosettes and little bells. Thedog looked almost like a little kid when she was allowed to go out in winterand trot after her mistress. And now here she was in the coldand not dressed.Ohhow would it end? All his fancies were quickly put to flight; yet he kissedthe Metal Pig once moreand then took Bellissima in his arms. The poor littlething trembled so with coldthat the boy ran homeward as fast as he could.
"What are you running away with there?" asked two of the policewhom he metand at whom the dog barked. "Where have you stolen that prettydog?" they asked; and they took it away from him.
"OhI have not stolen it; do give it to me back again" cried theboydespairingly.
"If you have not stolen ityou may say at home that they can send tothe watch-house for the dog." Then they told him where the watch-house wasand went away with Bellissima.
Here was a dreadful trouble. The boy did not know whether he had better jumpinto the Arnoor go home and confess everything. They would certainly kill himhe thought.
"WellI would gladly be killed" he reasoned; "for then Ishall dieand go to heaven:" and so he went homealmost hoping for death.
The door was lockedand he could not reach the knocker. No one was in thestreet; so he took up a stoneand with it made a tremendous noise at the door.
"Who is there?" asked somebody from within.
"It is I" said he. "Bellissima is gone. Open the doorandthen kill me."
Then indeed there was a great panic. Madame was so very fond of Bellissima.She immediately looked at the wall where the dog's dress usually hung; and therewas the little lambskin.
"Bellissima in the watch-house!" she cried. "You bad boy! howdid you entice her out? Poor little delicate thingwith those rough policemen!and she'll be frozen with cold."
Giuseppe went off at oncewhile his wife lamentedand the boy wept. Severalof the neighbors came inand amongst them the painter. He took the boy betweenhis kneesand questioned him; andin broken sentenceshe soon heard the wholestoryand also about the Metal Pigand the wonderful ride to thepicture-gallerywhich was certainly rather incomprehensible. The painterhoweverconsoled the little fellowand tried to soften the lady's anger; butshe would not be pacified till her husband returned with Bellissimawho hadbeen with the police. Then there was great rejoicingand the painter caressedthe boyand gave him a number of pictures. Ohwhat beautiful pictures thesewere!- figures with funny heads; andabove allthe Metal Pig was there too.Ohnothing could be more delightful. By means of a few strokesit was made toappear on the paper; and even the house that stood behind it had been sketchedin. Ohif he could only draw and paint! He who could do this could conjure allthe world before him. The first leisure moment during the next daythe boy gota penciland on the back of one of the other drawings he attempted to copy thedrawing of the Metal Pigand he succeeded. Certainly it was rather crookedrather up and downone leg thickand another thin; still it was like the copyand he was overjoyed at what he had done. The pencil would not go quite as itought- he had found that out; but the next day he tried again. A second pig wasdrawn by the side of the firstand this looked a hundred times better; and thethird attempt was so goodthat everybody might know what it was meant torepresent.
And now the glovemaking went on but slowly. The orders given by the shops inthe town were not finished quickly; for the Metal Pig had taught the boy thatall objects may be drawn upon paper; and Florence is a picture-book in itselffor any one who chooses to turn over its pages. On the Piazza dell Trinitastands a slender pillarand upon it is the goddess of Justiceblindfoldedwith her scales in her hand. She was soon represented on paperand it was theglovemaker's boy who placed her there. His collection of pictures increased; butas yet they were only copies of lifeless objectswhen one day Bellissima camegambolling before him: "Stand still" cried he"and I will drawyou beautifullyto put amongst my collection."
But Bellissima would not stand stillso she must be bound fast in oneposition. He tied her head and tail; but she barked and jumpedand so pulledand tightened the stringthat she was nearly strangled; and just then hermistress walked in.
"You wicked boy! the poor little creature!" was all she could utter.
She pushed the boy from herthrust him away with her footcalled him a mostungratefulgood-for-nothingwicked boyand forbade him to enter the houseagain. Then she weptand kissed her little half-strangled Bellissima. At thismoment the painter entered the room. -
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In the year 1834 there was an exhibition in the Academy of Arts at Florence.Two picturesplaced side by sideattracted a large number of spectators. Thesmaller of the two represented a little boy sitting at a tabledrawing; beforehim was a little white poodlecuriously shaven; but as the animal would notstand stillit had been
fastened with a string to its head and tailto keep it in one position. Thetruthfulness and life in this picture interested every one. The painter was saidto be a young Florentinewho had been found in the streetswhen a childby anold glovemakerwho had brought him up. The boy had taught himself to draw: itwas also said that a young artistnow famoushad discovered talent in thechild just as he was about to be sent away for having tied up madame's favoritelittle dogand using it as a model. The glovemaker's boy had also become agreat painteras the picture proved; but the larger picture by its side was astill greater proof of his talent. It represented a handsome boyclothed inragslying asleepand leaning against the Metal Pig in the street of the PortaRosa. All the spectators knew the spot well. The child's arms were round theneck of the Pigand he was in a deep sleep. The lamp before the picture of theMadonna threw a strongeffective light on the paledelicate face of the child.It was a beautiful picture. A large gilt frame surrounded itand on one cornerof the frame a laurel wreath had been hung; but a black bandtwined unseenamong the green leavesand a streamer of crapehung down from it; for withinthe last few days the young artist had- died. - -