Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Market Place at Odense (1836)
By Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875)
From ‘The Story of My Life’

IF the reader was a child who lived in Odense, he would just need to say the words “St. Knud’s Fair,” and it would rise before him in the brightest colors, lighted by the beams of childish fancy…. Somewhere near the middle of the town, five streets meet and make a little square…. There the town crier, in striped homespun, with a yellow bandoleer, beat his drum and proclaimed from a scroll the splendid things to be seen in the town.  1
  “He beats a good drum,” said the chamberlain.  2
  “It would delight Spontini and Rossini to hear the fellow,” said William. “Really, Odense at New Year would just suit these composers. The drums and fifes are in their glory. They drum the New Year in. Seven or eight little drummers, or fifers, go from door to door, with troops of children and old women, and they beat the drum-taps and the reveille. That fetches the pennies. Then when the New Year is well drummed in the city, they go into the country and drum for meat and porridge. The drumming in of the New Year lasts until Lent.”  3
  “And then we have new sports,” said the chamberlain. “The fishers come from Stege with a full band, and on their shoulders a boat with all sorts of flags…. Then they lay a board between two boats, and on this two of the youngest and spryest wrestle till one falls into the water…. But all the fun’s gone now. When I was young, there was different sport going. That was a sight! the corporation procession with the banners and the harlequin atop, and at Shrovetide, when the butchers led about an ox decked with ribbons and carnival twigs, with a boy on his back with wings and a little shirt…. All that’s past now, people are got so fine. St. Knud’s Fair is not what it used to be.”  4
  “Well, I’m glad it isn’t,” said William; “but let us go into the market and look at the Jutlanders, who are sitting with their pottery amidst the hay.”  5
  Just as the various professions in the Middle Ages had each its quarter, so here the shoemakers had ranged their tables side by side, and behind them stood the skillful workman in his long coat, and with his well-brushed felt hat in his hand. Where the shoemakers’ quarter ended, the hatters’ began, and there one was in the midst of the great market where tents and booths formed many parallel streets. The milliners, the goldsmiths, the pastry cooks, with booths of canvas and wood, were the chief attractions. Ribbons and handkerchiefs fluttered. Noise and bustle was everywhere. The girls from the same village always went in rows, seven or eight inseparables, with hands fast clasped. It was impossible to break the chain; and if you tried to pass through, the whole band wound itself into a clump. Behind the booth was a great space with wooden shoes, pottery, turners’ and saddlers’ wares. Rude and rough toys were spread on tables. Around them children were trying little trumpets, or moving about the playthings. Country girls twirled and twisted the work-boxes and themselves many a time before making their bargain. The air was thick and heavy with odors that were spiced with the smell of honey-cake.  6
  On Fair day, St. Knud’s Church and all its tombs are open to the public. From whatever side you look at this fine old building it has something imposing, with its high tower and spire. The interior produces the same, perhaps a greater, effect. But its full impression is not felt on entering it, nor until you get to the main aisle. There all is grand, beautiful, light. The whole interior is bright with gilding. Up in the high vaulted roof there shine, since old time, a multitude of golden stars. On both sides, high up above the side aisles, are great gothic windows from which the light streams down. The side aisles are painted with oil portraits, whole families, women and children, all in clerical dress, with long gowns and deep ruffs. Usually the figures are ranged by ages, the eldest first and then down to the very smallest.  7
  They all stand with folded hands, and look piously down before them, till their colors have gradually faded away in dust.  8

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