“I looked in through the window of a newspaper editor,” said the Moon. “It was somewhere in Germany. It was a handsomely furnished room, with many books and a chaos of newspapers. There were several young men present. The editor himself stood beside his desk; two little books, both by unknown authors, were to be reviewed.
” ‘This one has been sent to me,’ he said. ‘I haven’t read it yet, but it’s well put together. What do you think about its contents?’
“‘Oh,’ said one of the young men, who was a poet, ‘it is very good – a bit drawn out, but then, good Lord! he’s only a young man. It’s true the verses might be improved. The thoughts are sound enough; it’s only a pity they’re so commonplace. But what can you expect? We can’t always get something new. You might praise him a little, though in my opinion it’s clear he’ll never be anything great as a poet. Still, he has read a good deal; he’s an excellent Oriental scholar, and he has rather sound judgment. It was he who wrote the splendid review of my Reflections on Domestic Life. After all, we must be lenient toward a young man.’
” ‘But he’s a complete ass!’ said another gentleman in the room. ‘There’s nothing worse in poetry than mediocrity, and he certainly will never get any higher!’
” ‘Poor fellow,’ said a third. ‘And yet his aunt is so proud of him. She’s the lady, Mr. Editor, who got together that large list of subscribers for your last volume of translations.’
” ‘Ah, the good woman! Well, I’ve just given the book a brief notice. Unquestionable talent – a welcome gift! A flower in the garden of poetry, well put together, and so forth. But now, about this other book – I suppose the author expects me to buy it. I have heard it praised; the author has genius, they say. Don’t you think so?’
” ‘Yes, so they all say,’ said the poet. ‘But it’s rather wild. The punctuation, however, is indicative of genius! It’ll do him good to be treated roughly, to be pulled to pieces; otherwise he will have far too good an opinion of himself.’
” ‘But that would be unfair,’ said a fourth. Don’t let’s pick at little faults, but rather find pleasure in what is good; and there is much here worth praising. He writes better than all the rest of them.’
” ‘Heaven help us! If he’s such a great genius, he can take some sharp criticism! There are enough people to praise him in private; let us not drive him mad with flattery!’
” ‘Decided talent,’ wrote the editor. ‘The usual carelessness here and there; that he can write bad verses may be seen on page twenty-five, where there are two hiatuses. We recommend that he study the classics,’ etc.
“I passed on,” the Moon continued, “and peeped through the window of the aunt’s house. There sat the praised poet, the tame one, receiving homage from all the guests, and he was happy.
“I sought out the other poet, the wild one. He also was in a large gathering, at one of his patron’s. The subject of the conversation was his rival’s book.
” ‘Sometime or other I’ll read your poems,’ said the patron, ‘but to tell the truth – and you know I always say what I think – I don’t expect much from them. In my opinion you’re too wild for me, too fantastic. But I must admit that as a man you are highly respectable!’
“A young girl sat in a corner, reading a book:
In the dust are trodden genius and its glory,
While everyday talent wins high acclaim.
It is, alas, a very old story;
It’ll never be new, but ever the same.”
Original Danish title: “Trettende Aften” translated by Jean Hersholt.