Subject:FICTION Scarica il testo

Hans Christian Andersen


CLOSE to the corner of a street, among other abodes of
poverty, stood an exceedingly tall, narrow house, which had
been so knocked about by time that it seemed out of joint in
every direction. This house was inhabited by poor people, but
the deepest poverty was apparent in the garret lodging in the
gable. In front of the little window, an old bent bird-cage
hung in the sunshine, which had not even a proper water-glass,
but instead of it the broken neck of a bottle, turned upside
down, and a cork stuck in to make it hold the water with which
it was filled. An old maid stood at the window; she had hung
chickweed over the cage, and the little linnet which it
contained hopped from perch to perch and sang and twittered

"Yes, it's all very well for you to sing," said the bottle
neck: that is, he did not really speak the words as we do, for
the neck of a bottle cannot speak; but he thought them to
himself in his own mind, just as people sometimes talk quietly
to themselves.

"Yes, you may sing very well, you have all your limbs
uninjured; you should feel what it is like to lose your body,
and only have a neck and a mouth left, with a cork stuck in
it, as I have: you wouldn't sing then, I know. After all, it
is just as well that there are some who can be happy. I have
no reason to sing, nor could I sing now if I were ever so
happy; but when I was a whole bottle, and they rubbed me with
a cork, didn't I sing then? I used to be called a complete
lark. I remember when I went out to a picnic with the
furrier's family, on the day his daughter was betrothed,- it
seems as if it only happened yesterday. I have gone through a
great deal in my time, when I come to recollect: I have been
in the fire and in the water, I have been deep in the earth,
and have mounted higher in the air than most other people, and
now I am swinging here, outside a bird-cage, in the air and
the sunshine. Oh, indeed, it would be worth while to hear my
history; but I do not speak it aloud, for a good reasonbecause I cannot."

Then the bottle neck related his history, which was really
rather remarkable; he, in fact, related it to himself, or, at
least, thought it in his own mind. The little bird sang his
own song merrily; in the street below there was driving and
running to and fro, every one thought of his own affairs, or
perhaps of nothing at all; but the bottle neck thought deeply.
He thought of the blazing furnace in the factory, where he had
been blown into life; he remembered how hot it felt when he
was placed in the heated oven, the home from which he sprang,
and that he had a strong inclination to leap out again
directly; but after a while it became cooler, and he found
himself very comfortable. He had been placed in a row, with a
whole regiment of his brothers and sisters all brought out of
the same furnace; some of them had certainly been blown into
champagne bottles, and others into beer bottles, which made a
little difference between them. In the world it often happens
that a beer bottle may contain the most precious wine, and a
champagne bottle be filled with blacking, but even in decay it
may always be seen whether a man has been well born. Nobility
remains noble, as a champagne bottle remains the same, even
with blacking in its interior. When the bottles were packed
our bottle was packed amongst them; it little expected then to
finish its career as a bottle neck, or to be used as a
water-glass to a bird's-cage, which is, after all, a place of
honor, for it is to be of some use in the world. The bottle
did not behold the light of day again, until it was unpacked
with the rest in the wine merchant's cellar, and, for the
first time, rinsed with water, which caused some very curious
sensations. There it lay empty, and without a cork, and it had
a peculiar feeling, as if it wanted something it knew not
what. At last it was filled with rich and costly wine, a cork
was placed in it, and sealed down. Then it was labelled "first
quality," as if it had carried off the first prize at an
examination; besides, the wine and the bottle were both good,
and while we are young is the time for poetry. There were
sounds of song within the bottle, of things it could not
understand, of green sunny mountains, where the vines grow and
where the merry vine-dressers laugh, sing, and are merry. "Ah,
how beautiful is life." All these tones of joy and song in the
bottle were like the working of a young poet's brain, who
often knows not the meaning of the tones which are sounding
within him. One morning the bottle found a purchaser in the
furrier's apprentice, who was told to bring one of the best
bottles of wine. It was placed in the provision basket with
ham and cheese and sausages. The sweetest fresh butter and the
finest bread were put into the basket by the furrier's
daughter herself, for she packed it. She was young and pretty;
her brown eyes laughed, and a smile lingered round her mouth
as sweet as that in her eyes. She had delicate hands,
beautifully white, and her neck was whiter still. It could
easily be seen that she was a very lovely girl, and as yet she
was not engaged. The provision basket lay in the lap of the
young girl as the family drove out to the forest, and the neck
of the bottle peeped out from between the folds of the white
napkin. There was the red wax on the cork, and the bottle
looked straight at the young girl's face, and also at the face
of the young sailor who sat near her. He was a young friend,
the son of a portrait painter. He had lately passed his
examination with honor, as mate, and the next morning he was
to sail in his ship to a distant coast. There had been a great
deal of talk on this subject while the basket was being
packed, and during this conversation the eyes and the mouth of
the furrier's daughter did not wear a very joyful expression.
The young people wandered away into the green wood, and talked
together. What did they talk about? The bottle could not say,
for he was in the provision basket. It remained there a long
time; but when at last it was brought forth it appeared as if
something pleasant had happened, for every one was laughing;
the furrier's daughter laughed too, but she said very little,
and her cheeks were like two roses. Then her father took the
bottle and the cork-screw into his hands. What a strange
sensation it was to have the cork drawn for the first time!
The bottle could never after that forget the performance of
that moment; indeed there was quite a convulsion within him as
the cork flew out, and a gurgling sound as the wine was poured
forth into the glasses.

"Long life to the betrothed," cried the papa, and every
glass was emptied to the dregs, while the young sailor kissed
his beautiful bride.

"Happiness and blessing to you both," said the old
people-father and mother, and the young man filled the glasses

"Safe return, and a wedding this day next year," he cried;
and when the glasses were empty he took the bottle, raised it
on high, and said, "Thou hast been present here on the
happiest day of my life; thou shalt never be used by others!"
So saying, he hurled it high in the air.

The furrier's daughter thought she should never see it
again, but she was mistaken. It fell among the rushes on the
borders of a little woodland lake. The bottle neck remembered
well how long it lay there unseen. "I gave them wine, and they
gave me muddy water," he had said to himself, "but I suppose
it was all well meant." He could no longer see the betrothed
couple, nor the cheerful old people; but for a long time he
could hear them rejoicing and singing. At length there came by
two peasant boys, who peeped in among the reeds and spied out
the bottle. Then they took it up and carried it home with
them, so ...