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There was once a young man who was studying to be a poet. He wanted to become one by Easter, and to marry, and to live by poetry. To write poems, he knew, only consists in being able to invent something. But he could not invent anything.

He had been born too late �C everything had been taken up before he came into the world, and everything had been written and told about.

"Happy people who were born a thousand years ago!" said he.

"It was an easy matter for them to become immortal. Happy even was he who was born a hundred years ago, for then there was still something about which a poem could be written. Now the world is written out, and what can I write poetry about?"

Then he studied till he became ill and wretched, the wretched man! No doctor could help him, but perhaps the wise woman could. She lived in the little house by the wayside, where the gate is that she opened for those who rode and drove. But she could do more than unlock the gate. She was wiser than the doctor who drives in his own carriage and pays tax for his rank.

"I must go to her," said the young man.

The house in which she dwelt was small and neat, but dreary to behold, for there were no flowers near it �C no trees. By the door stood a bee-hive, which was very useful. There was also a little potato-field, very useful, and an earth bank, with sloe bushes upon it, which had done blossoming, and now bore fruit, sloes, that draw one's mouth together if one tastes them before the frost has touched them.

"That's a true picture of our poetryless time, that I see before me now," thought the young man; and that was at least a thought, a grain of gold that he found by the door of the wise woman.

"Write that down!" said she. "Even crumbs are bread. I know why you come hither. You cannot invent anything, and yet you want to be a poet by Easter."

"Everything has been written down," said he. "Our time is not the old time."

"No," said the woman. "In the old time wise women were burnt, and poets went about with empty stomachs, and very much out at elbows. The present time is good, it is the best of times; but you have not the right way of looking at it. Your ear is not sharpened to hear, and I fancy you do not say the Lord's Prayer in the evening. There is plenty here to write poems about, and to tell of, for any one who knows the way. You can read it in the fruits of the earth, you can draw it from the flowing and the standing water; but you must understand how �C you must understand how to catch a sunbeam. Now just you try my spectacles on, and put my ear-trumpet to your ear, and then pray to God, and leave off thinking of yourself"

The last was a very difficult thing to do �C more than a wise woman ought to ask.

He received the spectacles and the ear-trumpet, and was posted in the middle of the potato-field. She put a great potato into his hand. Sounds came from within it; there came a song with words, the history of the potato, an every-day story in ten parts, an interesting story. And ten lines were enough to tell it in.

And what did the potato sing?

She sang of herself and of her family, of the arrival of the potato in Europe, of the misrepresentation to which she had been exposed before she was acknowledged, as she is now, to be a greater treasure than a lump of gold.

"We were distributed, by the King's command, from the council-houses through the various towns, and proclamation was made of our great value; but no one believed in it, or even understood how to plant us. One man dug a hole in the earth and threw in his whole bushel of potatoes; another put one potato here and another there in the ground, and expected that each was to come up a perfect tree, from which he might shake down potatoes. And they certainly grew, and produced flowers and green watery fruit, but it all withered away. Nobody thought of what was in the ground �C the blessing �C the potato. Yes, we have endured and suffered, that is to say, our forefathers have; they and we, it is all one."

What a story it was!

"Well, and that will do," said the woman. "Now look at the sloe bush."

"We have also some near relations in the home of the potatoes, but higher towards the north than they grew," said the Sloes. "There were Northmen, from Norway, who steered westward through mist and storm to an unknown land, where, behind ice and snow, they found plants and green meadows, and bushes with blue-black grapes �C sloe bushes. The grapes were ripened by the frost just as we are. And they called the land 'wine-land,' that is, 'Greenland,' or 'Sloeland.'"

"That is quite a romantic story," said the young man.

"Yes, certainly. But now come with me," said the wise woman, and she led him to the bee-hive.

He looked into it. What life and labor! There were bees standing in all the passages, waving their wings, so that a wholesome draught of air might blow through the great manufactory; that was their business. Then there came in bees from without, who had been born with little baskets on their feet; they brought flower-dust, which was poured out, sorted, and manufactured into honey and wax. They flew in and out. The queen-bee wanted to fly out, but then all the other bees must have gone with her. It was not yet the time for that, but still she wanted to fly out; so the others bit off her majesty's wings, and she had to stay where she was.

"Now get upon the earth bank," said the wise woman. "Come and look out over the highway, where you can see the people."

"What a crowd it is!" said the young man. "One story after another. It whirls and whirls! It's quite a confusion before my eyes. I shall go out at the back."

"No, go straight forward," said the woman. "Go straight into the crowd of people; look at them in the right way. Have an ear to hear and the right heart to feel, and you will soon invent something. But, before you go away, you must give me my spectacles and my ear-trumpet again."

And so saying, she took both from him.

"Now I do not see the smallest thing," said the young man, "and now I don't hear anything more."

"Why, then, you can't be a poet by Easter," said the wise woman.

"But, by what time can I be one?" asked he.

"Neither by Easter nor by Whitsuntide! You will not learn how to invent anything."

"What must I do to earn my bread by poetry?"

"You can do that before Shrove Tuesday. Hunt the poets! Kill their writings and thus you will kill them. Don't be put out of countenance. Strike at them boldly, and you'll have carnival cake, on which you can support yourself and your wife too."

"What one can invent!" cried the young man. And so he hit out boldly at every second poet, because he could not be a poet himself.

We have it from the wise woman. She knows WHAT ONE CAN INVENT.

 

创造

从前有一个年轻人,他研究怎样做一个诗人。他想在复活节就成为一个诗人,而且要讨一个太太,靠写诗来生活。他知道,写诗不过是一种创造,而他却不会创造。他出生得太迟;在他没有来到这个世界以前,一切东西已经被人创造出来了,一切东西已经被作成了诗,写出来了。

“一千年以前出生的人啊,你们真是幸福!”他说。“他们容易成为不朽的人!即使在几百年以前出生的人,也是幸福的,因为那时他们还可以有些东西写成诗。现在全世界的诗都写完了,我还有什么诗可写呢?”

他研究这个问题,结果他病起来了。可怜的人!没有什么医生可以治他的病!也许巫婆能够治吧!她住在草场入口旁边的一个小屋子里。她专为那些骑马和坐车的人开草场的门。她能开的东西还不只门呢。她比医生还要聪明,因为医生只会赶自己的车子和交付他的所得税。

“我非去拜访她一下不可!”这位年轻人说。

她所住的房子是既小巧,又干净,可是样子很可怕。这儿既没有树,也没有花;门口只有一窝蜜蜂,很有用!还有一小块种马铃薯的地,也很有用!还有一条沟,旁边有一个野李树丛——已经开过了花,现在正在结果,而这些果子在没有下霜以前,只要你尝一下,就可以把你的嘴酸得张不开。

“我在这儿所看到的,正是我们这个毫无诗意的时代的一幅图画!”年轻人想。这个在巫婆门口所起的感想可以说是像一粒金子。

“把它写下来吧!”她说。“面包屑也是面包呀!我知道你为什么要到这儿来。你的文思干涸,而你却想在复活节成为一个诗人!”

“一切东西早已被人写完了!”他说,“我们这个时代并不是古代呀!”

“不对!”巫婆说,“古时巫婆总是被人烧死,而诗人总是饿着肚皮,衣袖总是磨穿了洞。现在是一个很好的时代,它是最好的时代!不过你看事情总是不对头。你的听觉不锐敏,你在晚上也不念《主祷文》。这里有各色各样的东西可以写成诗,讲成故事,如果你会讲的话,你可以从大地的植物和收获中汲取题材,你可以从死水和活水中汲取题材,不过你必须了解怎样摄取阳光。现在请你把我的眼镜戴上、把我的听筒安上吧,同时还请你对上帝祈祷,不要老想着你自己吧!”

最后的这件事情最困难,一个巫婆不应该作这样的要求。

他拿着眼镜和听筒;他被领到一块种满了马铃薯的地里去。她给他一个大马铃薯捏着。它里面发出声音来,它唱出一支歌来:有趣的马铃薯之歌——一个分做十段的日常故事;十行就够了。

马铃薯到底唱的什么呢?

它歌唱它自己和它的家族:马铃薯是怎样到欧洲来的,在它还没有被人承认比一块金子还贵重以前,它们遭遇到了一些什么不幸。

“朝廷命令各城的市政府把我们分配出去。我们有极大的重要性,这在通令上都说明了,不过老百姓还是不相信;他们甚至还不懂怎样来栽种我们。有人挖了一个洞,把整斗的马铃薯都倒进里面去;有人在这儿埋一个,在那儿埋一个,等待每一个长出一棵树,然后再从上面摇下马铃薯来。人们以为马铃薯会生长,开花,结出水汪汪的果子;但是它却萎谢了。谁也没有想到它的根底下长出的东西——人类的幸福:马铃薯。是的,我们经验过生活,受过苦——这当然是指我们的祖先。它们跟我们都是一样!多么了不起的历史啊!”

“好,够了!”巫婆说。“请看看这个野李树丛吧!”

野李树说:“在马铃薯的故乡,从它们生长的地方更向北一点,我们也有很近的亲族。北欧人从挪威到那儿去。他们乘船在雾和风暴中向西开,开向一个不知名的国度里去。在那儿的冰雪下面,他们发现了植物和蔬菜,结着像葡萄一样蓝的浆果的灌木丛——野李子。像我们一样,这些果子也是经过霜打以后才成熟的。这个国度叫做‘酒之国’‘绿国’①‘野梅国’!”

“这倒是一个很离奇的故事!”年轻人说。

“对。跟我一道来吧!”巫婆说,同时把他领到蜜蜂窝那儿去。他朝里面看。多么活跃的生活啊!蜂窝所有的走廊上都有蜜蜂;它们拍着翅膀,好使这个大工厂里有新鲜空气流动:这是它们的任务。现在有许多蜜蜂从外面进来;它们生来腿上就有一个篮子。它们运回花粉。这些花粉被筛好和整理一番后,就被做成蜂蜜和蜡。它们飞出飞进。那位蜂后也想飞,但是大家必得跟着她一道。这种时候还没有到来,但是她仍然想要飞,因此大家就把这位女皇的翅膀咬断了;她也只好呆下来。

“现在请你到沟沿上来吧!”巫婆说。“请来看看这条公路上的人!”

“多大的一堆人啊!”年轻人说。“一个故事接着一个故事!

故事在闹哄哄地响着!我真有些头昏!我要回去了!”

“不成,向前走吧,”女人说,“径直走到人群中去,用你的眼睛去看,用你的耳朵去听,用你的心去想吧!这样你才可以创造出东西来!不过在你没有去以前,请把我的眼镜和听筒还给我吧!”于是她就把这两件东西要回去了。

“现在我最普通的东西也听不见了!”年轻人说,“现在我什么也听不见了!”

“唔,那么在复活节以前你就不能成为一个诗人了。”巫婆说。

“那么在什么时候呢?”他问。

“既不在复活节,也不在圣灵降临周!你学不会创造任何东西的。”

“那么我将做什么呢?我将怎样靠诗来吃饭呢?”

“这个你在四旬节以前就可以做到了!你可以一棒子把诗人打垮!打击他们的作品跟打击他们的身体是一样的。但是你自己不要害怕,勇敢地去打击吧,这样你才可以得到汤团吃,养活你的老婆和你自己!”

“一个人能创造的东西真多!”年轻人说。于是他就去打击每个别的诗人,因为他自己不能成为一个诗人。

这个故事我们是从那个巫婆那里听来的;她知道一个人能创造出什么东西。

①指格陵兰。这个岛在丹麦文里叫“绿国”(Groanland)。