“A fresh and fragrant grove of oaks and beeches, visited by a hundred nightingales with each return of spring, stretched along the seashore. The broad highway lies between this grove and the ocean, the ever-changing ocean. One carriage after another rolls past, but I do not follow them; my gaze rests mostly on one spot – a Viking’s grave, Blackberry and sloe grow between the stones. Here is the true poetry of nature. How do you think people interpret it? Listen, and I shall tell you what I heard last evening and during the past night.
“First, two rich landowners came driving along. “What splendid trees!’ said one of them. ‘Every tree should give at least ten cartloads of firewood,’ answered the other, ‘and we’re going to have a hard winter. Last year, remember, we got fourteen dollars a load!’ And then they were gone.
” ‘What a terrible road!’ said another man as he drove past in his carriage. ‘It’s all because of those confounded trees,’ his companion answered. ‘The only way for the air to get in is from the sea!’ And they rolled on.
“The stagecoach also came by, and during this loveliest part of the journey all the passengers were fast asleep. The driver blew his horn, but he said only to himself, ‘I blow well indeed! It sounds fine right here! But what do those sleepy people inside care about it?’ Then the stagecoach disappeared.
“Now two young lads galloped along on horseback. Here are the fire and spirit of youth, I thought. They also glanced with a smile at the moss-green hills and the dark grove. ‘I should certainly like to go for a walk in here with Christine, the miller’s daughter!’ said one of them, and off they rode.
“The fragrance of flowers was very strong; every breath of wind was still; the ocean seemed almost a part of the heaven that overhung the deep valley. A coach with six passengers rolled by. Four were asleep; the fifth was thinking of how his new summer coat would fit him, and the sixth popped his head out of the window to ask the coachman if there was anything remarkable about the heap of stones beside the road.
” ‘ No, ‘ said the driver. ‘That’s nothing but a heap of stones; but the trees over there – they’re really worth looking at!’
” ‘ Tell me about them.’
” ‘ Yes, they’re most remarkable,’ said the man. ‘In the winter, when the snow is so deep that nothing can be seen, those trees are signposts to me; I follow them and keep from driving into the sea. You see, that’s why they are so remarkable!’ And then he drove on.
“Now a painter came by. His eyes sparkled; he didn’t say a word; he only whistled. Each nightingale sang more loudly and sweetly than the other. ‘Stop that noise!’ he cried, and then he carefully examined all the colors and tints in the landscape. ‘Blue, purple, dark brown – what a beautiful painting this would make!’ His mind took it all in, just as a mirror reflects a picture, and meanwhile he whistled a Rossini march.
“The last to come by was a poor girl. She sat down upon the Viking’s grave to rest, and laid down her bundle. Her pale, lovely face turned toward the grove, and she listened; her eyes brightened as she raised them over the ocean toward heaven. Her hands were clasped, and I believe she said the Lord’s Prayer. She herself did not fully understand the feeling that moment and the scene around her will in her memory be invested with colors more beautiful and richer than the artist’s accurate colors. My rays followed her until the dawn kissed her brow.”
Original Danish title: “Syvende Aften” translated by Jean Hersholt.