Hans Christian Andersen. (18051875) Tales. The Harvard Classics. 190914.
OFTEN after a thunder-storm, when one passes a field in which buckwheat is growing, it appears quite blackened and singed. It is just as if a flame of fire had passed across it; and then the countryman says, It got that from lightning. But whence has it received that? I will tell you what the sparrow told me about it, and the sparrow heard it from an old willow-tree which stood by a buckwheat field, and still stands there. It is quite a great venerable Willow-tree, but crippled and old: it is burst in the middle, and grass and brambles grow out of the cleft; the tree bends forward, and the branches hang quite down to the ground, as if they were long green hair.
On all the fields round about corn was growing, not only rye and barley, but also oats; yes, the most capital oats, which when ripe, look like a number of little yellow canary birds sitting upon a spray. The corn stood smiling, and the richer an ear was the deeper did it bend in pious humility.
Im as rich as any corn-ear, said he. Moreover, Im very much handsomer: my flowers are beautiful as the blossoms of the apple-tree: its quite a delight to look upon me and mine. Do you know anything more splendid than we are, you old Willow-tree?
Bend your head as we do, cried the various Crops. Now the Storm comes flying on. He has wings that reach from the clouds just down to the earth, and hell beat you in halves before you can cry for mercy.
Shut up your flowers and bend your leaves, said the old Willow-tree. Dont look up at the lightning when the cloud bursts: even men do not do that, for in the lightning one may look into heaven, but the light dazzles even men; and what would happen to us, if we dared do sowe, the plants of the field, that are much less worthy than they?
When afterward the bad weather had passed by, the flowers and the crops stood in the still, pure air, quite refreshed by the rain; but the Buckwheat was burned coal-black by the lightning, and it was now like a dead weed upon the field.
And the Sparrows asked, Why do you weep? Here everything is so cheerful: see how the sun shines: she how the clouds sail on. Do you not breathe the scent of flowers and bushes? Why do you weep, Willow-tree?