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An essay by Hans Christian Andersen

The Kinnakulla

Title:     The Kinnakulla
Author: Hans Christian Andersen [More Titles by Andersen]

Kinnakulla, Sweden's hanging gardens! Thee will we visit. We stand by the lowest terrace in a plenitude of flowers and verdure; the ancient village church leans its grey pointed wooden tower, as if it would fall; it produces an effect in the landscape: we would not even be without that large flock of birds, which just now chance to fly away over the mountain forest.

The high road leads up the mountain with short palings on either side, between which we see extensive plains with hops, wild roses, corn-fields, and delightful beech woods, such as are not to be found in any other place in Sweden. The ivy winds itself around old trees and stones--even to the withered trunk green leaves are lent. We look out over the flat, extended woody plain, to the sunlit church-tower of Maristad, which shines like a white sail on the dark green sea: we look out over the Venern Lake, but cannot see its further shore. Skjaergaardens' wood-crowned rocks lie like a wreath down in the lake; the steam-boat comes--see! down by the cliff under the red-roofed mansions, where the beech and walnut trees grow in the garden.

The travellers land; they wander under shady trees away over that pretty light green meadow, which is enwreathed by gardens and woods: no English park has a finer verdure than the meadows near Hellekis. They go up to "the grottos," as they call the projecting masses of red stone higher up, which, being thoroughly kneaded with petrifactions, project from the declivity of the earth, and remind one of the mouldering colossal tombs in the Campagna of Rome. Some are smooth and rounded off by the streaming of the water, others bear the moss of ages, grass and flowers, nay, even tall trees.

The travellers go from the forest road up to the top of Kinnakulla, where a stone is raised as the goal of their wanderings. The traveller reads in his guide-book about the rocky strata of Kinnakulla: "At the bottom is found sandstone, then alum-stone, then limestone, and above this red-stone, higher still slate, and lastly, trap." And, now that he has seen this, he descends again, and goes on board. He has seen Kinnakulla:--yes, the stony rock here, amidst the swelling verdure, showed him one heavy, thick stone finger, and most of the travellers think that they are like the devil, if they lay hold upon one finger, they have the body--but it is not always so. The least visited side of Kinnakulla is just the most characteristic, and thither will we go.

The road still leads us a long way on this side of the mountain, step by step downwards, in long terraces of rich fields: further down, the slate-stone peers forth in flat layers, a green moss upon it, and it looks like threadbare patches in the green velvet carpet. The high road leads over an extent of ground where the slate-stone lies like a firm floor. In the Campagna of Rome, one would say it is a piece of _via appia_, or antique road; but it is Kinnakulla's naked skin and bones that we pass over. The peasant's house is composed of large slate-stones, and the roof is covered with them; one sees nothing of wood except that of the door, and above it, of the large painted shield, which states to what regiment the soldier belongs who got this house and plot of ground in lieu of pay.

We cast another glance over Venern, to Lockoe's old palace, to the town of Lendkjobing, and are again near verdant fields and noble trees, that cast their shadows over Blomberg, where, in the garden, the poet Geier's spirit seeks the flower of Kinnakulla in his grand-daughter, little Anna.

The plain expands here behind Kinnakulla; it extends for miles around, towards the horizon. A shower stands in the heavens; the wind has increased: see how the rain falls to the ground like a darkening veil. The branches of the trees lash one another like penitential dryades. Old Husaby church lies near us, yonder; though the shower lashes the high walls, which alone stand, of the old Catholic Bishop's palace. Crows and ravens fly through the long glass-less windows, which time has made larger; the rain pours down the crevices in the old grey walls, as if they were now to be loosened stone from stone: but the church stands--old Husaby church--so grey and venerable, with its thick walls, its small windows, and its three spires stuck against each other, and standing, like nuts, in a cluster.

The old trees in the churchyard cast their shade over ancient graves. Where is the district's "Old Mortality," who weeds the grass, and explains the ancient memorials? Large granite stones are laid here in the form of coffins, ornamented with rude carvings from the times of Catholicism. The old church-door creaks in the hinges. We stand within its walls, where the vaulted roof was filled for centuries with the fragrance of incense, with monks, and with the song of the choristers. Now it is still and mute here: the old men in their monastic dresses have passed into their graves; the blooming boys that swung the censer are in their graves; the congregation--many generations--all in their graves; but the church still stands the same. The moth-eaten, dusty cowls, and the bishops' mantle, from the days of the cloister, hang in the old oak presses; and old manuscripts, half eaten up by the rats, lie strewed about on the shelves in the sacristy.

In the left aisle of the church there still stands, and has stood time out of mind, a carved image of wood, painted in various colours which are still strong: it is the Virgin Mary with the child Jesus. Fresh flower wreaths are hung around hers and the child's head; fragrant garlands are twined around the pedestal, as festive as on Madonna's birthday feast in the times of Popery. The young folks who have been confirmed, have this day, on receiving the sacrament for the first time, ornamented this old image--nay, even set the priest's name in flowers upon the altar; and he has, to our astonishment, let it remain there.

The image of Madonna seems to have become young by the fresh wreaths: the fragrant flowers here have a power like that of poetry--they bring back the days of past centuries to our own times. It is as if the extinguished glory around the head shone again; the flowers exhale perfume: it is as if incense again streamed through the aisles of the church--it shines around the altar as if the consecrated tapers were lighted--it is a sunbeam through the window.

The sky without has become clear: we drive again in under Cleven, the barren side of Kinnakulla: it is a rocky wall, different from almost all the others. The red stone blocks lie, strata on strata, forming fortifications with embrasures, projecting wings and round towers; but shaken, split and fallen in ruins--it is an architectural fantastic freak of nature. A brook falls gushing down from one of the highest points of the Cleven, and drives a little mill. It looks like a plaything which the mountain sprite had placed there and forgotten.

Large masses of fallen stone blocks lie dispersed round about; nature has spread them in the forms of carved cornices. The most significant way of describing Kinnakulla's rocky wall is to call it the ruins of a mile-long Hindostanee temple: these rocks might be easily transformed by the hammer into sacred places like the Ghaut mountains at Ellara. If a Brahmin were to come to Kinnakulla's rocky wall, he would recognise the temple of Cailasa, and find in the clefts and crevices whole representations from Ramagena and Mahabharata. If one should then speak to him in a sort of gibberish--no matter what, only that, by the help of Brockhaus's "Conversation-Lexicon" one might mingle therein the names of some of the Indian spectacles:--Sakantala, Vikramerivati, Uttaram Ramatscheritram, &c.--the; Brahmin would be completely mystified, and write in his note-book: "Kinnakulla is the remains of a temple, like those we have in Ellara; and the inhabitants themselves know the most considerable works in our oldest Sanscrit literature, and speak in an extremely spiritual manner about them." But no Brahmin comes to the high rocky walls--not to speak of the company from the steam-boat, who are already far over the lake Venern. They have seen wood-crowned Kinnakulla, Sweden's hanging gardens--and we also have now seen them.

[The end]
Hans Christian Andersen's essay: Kinnakulla