PEN AND INKSTAND

By Hans Christian Andersen

THE following remark was made in a poet's room, as the speaker looked at the inkstand that stood upon his table:

"It is marvelous all that can come out of that ink-stand! What will it produce next? Yes, it is marvelous!"

"So it is!" exclaimed the Inkstand. "It is incomprehensible! That is what I always say." It was thus the Inkstand addressed itself to the Pen, and to everything else that could hear it on the table. "It is really astonishing all that can come from me! It is almost incredible! I positively do not know myself what the next thing may be, when a person begins to dip into me. One drop of me serves for half a side of paper; and what may not then appear upon it? I am certainly something extraordinary. From me proceed all the works of the poets. These animated beings, whom people think they recognize-these deep feelings, that gay humor, these charming descriptions of nature -I do not understand them myself, for I know nothing about nature; but still it is all in me. From me have gone forth, and still go forth, these warrior hosts, these lovely maidens, these bold knights on snorting steeds, those droll characters in humbler life. The fact is, however, that I do not know anything about them myself. I assure you they are not my ideas."

"You are right there," replied the Pen. "You have few ideas, and do not trouble yourself much with thinking, if you did exert yourself to think, you would perceive that you ought to give something that was not dry. You supply me with the means of committing to paper what I have in me; I write with that. It is the pen that writes. Mankind do not doubt that; and most men have about as much genius for poetry as an old inkstand."

"You have but little experience," said the ink-stand. "You have scarcely been a week in use, and you are already half worn out. Do you fancy that you are a poet? You are only a servant: and I have had many of your kind before you came- many of the goose family, and of English manufacture. I know both quill pens and steel pens. I have had a great many in my service, and I shall have many more still, when he, the man who stirs me up, comes and puts down what he takes from me. I should like very much to know what will be the next thing he will take from me."

"Ink tub!" said the Pen.

Late in the evening the Poet returned home. He had been at a concert, had heard a celebrated violin player, and was quite enchanted with his wonderful performance. It had been a complete gush of melody that he had drawn from the instrument. Sometimes it seemed like the gentle murmur of a rippling stream, sometimes like the singing of birds, sometimes like the tempest sweeping through the mighty pine forests, he fancied he heard his own heart weep, but in the sweet tones that can be heard in a woman's charming voice. It seemed as if not only the strings of the violin made music, but its bridge, its pegs, and its sounding board. It was astonishing! The piece had been a most difficult one; but it seemed like play-as if the bow were but wandering capriciously over the strings. Such was the appearance of facility, that everyone might have supposed he could do it. The violin seemed to sound of itself, the bow to play of itself. These two seemed to do it all. One forgot the master who guided them, who gave them life and soul. Yes, they forgot the master; but the Poet thought of him. He named him, and wrote down his thoughts as follows:

"How foolish it would be of the violin and the bow, were they to be vain in their performance! And yet this is what so often we of the human species are. Poets, artists, those who make discoveries in science, military and naval commanders -we are all proud of ourselves; and yet we are all only the instruments in our Lord's hands. To Him alone be the glory! We have nothing to arrogate to ourselves."

This was what the Poet wrote; and he headed it with: "The Master and the Instruments."

"Well, madam," said the Pen to the Inkstand when they were again alone, "you heard him read aloud what I had written."

"Yes, what I gave you to write," said the Ink-stand. "It was a hit at you for your conceit. Strange that you cannot see that people make a fool of you! I gave you that hit pretty cleverly. I confess, though, it was rather malicious."

"Inkholder!" cried the Pen.

"Writing stick!" cried the Inkstand.

They both felt assured that they had answered well; and it is a pleasant reflection that one has made a smart reply-one sleeps comfortably after it. And they both went to sleep; but the Poet could not sleep. His thoughts welded forth like the tones from the violin, trilling like pearls, rushing like a storm through the forest. He recognized the feeling of his own heart-he perceived the gleam from the everlasting Master.

To Him alone be the glory!