By Hans Christian Andersen
Between the Baltic and the North Sea there
lies an old swan's nest, and it is called
Denmark, wherein swans are born and have
been born whose names shall never die. In
olden times a flock of swans flew over the
Alps to the green plains around Milan, where
it was delightful to dwell :
this flight of swans men called the
Another flock, with shining plumage and
honest eyes, soared southward to Byzantium ;
the swans established themselves there close
by the Emperor's throne, and spread their
great white wings over him as shields to
protect him. They received the name of
On the coast of France there sounded a cry
of fear, for the blood-stained swans that
came from the North with fire under their
wings ; and the people prayed, ' Heaven
deliver us from the wild Northmen.'
On the fresh sward of England stood the
Danish swan by the open sea-shore, with the
crown of three kingdoms on his head ; and he
stretched out his golden sceptre over the
land. The heathens on the Pomeranian coast
bent the knee, and the Danish swans came
with the banner of the
Cross and with the drawn sword.
' That was in the very old times,' you say.
In later days two mighty swans have been
seen to fly from the nest. A light shone far
through the air, far over the lands of the
earth ; the swan, with the strong beating of
his wings, scattered the twilight mists, and
the starry sky was more clearly seen, and it
was as if it came nearer to ^the earth. That
was the swan Tycho Brahe.
Yes, at that time,' you say ; ' but in our
own days ? '
We have seen swan after swan soar by in
One let his pinions glide over the strings
of the golden harp, and it resounded through
the North : Norway's mountains seemed to
rise higher in the sunlight of former days ;
there was a rustling among the pine trees
and the birches ; the gods of the North, the
heroes, and the noble women showed
themselves in the dark forest depths.
We have seen a swan beat with his wings upon
the marble crag, so that it burst, and the
forms of beauty imprisoned in the stone
stepped out to the sunny day, and men in the
lands round about lifted up their heads to
behold these mighty forms.
We have seen a third swan spinning the
thread of thought that is fastened from
country to country round the world, so that
the word may fly with lightning speed from
land to land.
And our Lord loves the old swan's nest
between the Baltic and the Northern Sea. And
when the mighty birds come soaring through
the air to destroy it, even the callow young
stand round in a circle on the margin of the
nest, and though their breasts may be struck
so that their blood flows, they bear it, and
strike with their wings and their claws.
Centuries will pass by, swans will fly forth
from the nest, men will see them and hear
them in the world, before it shall be said
in spirit and in truth. This is the last
swan the last song from the swan's nest.'