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
"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
"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
"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
To Him alone be the glory!