Print this Page

A View from Vartou's Window

Hans Christian Andersen

The A-B-C Book The Angel Anne Lisbeth At the Uttermost Parts of the Sea Aunty Aunty Toothache "Beautiful" The Beetle The Bell The Bell Deep The Bird of Folklore The Bishop of Börglum and his Men The Bond of Friendship The Bottle Neck The Brave Tin Soldier The Buckwheat Butterfly The Candles Chicken Grethe's Family The Child in the Grave Children's Prattle Clumsy Hans The Comet The Court Cards The Cripple Croak! The Daisy Dance, Dance, Doll of Mine! Danish Popular Legends The Darning Needle The Days of the Week The Drop of Water The Dryad The Elder-Tree Mother The Elf Mound The Emperor's New Clothes Everything in its Proper Place Danish Popular Legends The Farmyard Cock and the Weathercock The Fir Tree Five Peas from a Pod The Flax The Flea and the Professor The Flying Trunk Folks Say - The Galoshes of Fortune The Gardener and the Noble Family The Garden of Paradise The Gate Key The Girl Who Trod on the Loaf The Goblin and the Grocer The Goblin and the Woman God Can Never Die Godfather's Picture Book Golden Treasure A Good Humor Grandmother Great-Grandfather The Great Sea Serpent The Happy Family Heartache Holger Danske Ib and Little Christine The Ice Maiden In the Children's Room In the Duck Yard It's Quite True! Jack the Dullard The Jewish Girl The Jumpers Kept Secret but not Forgotten The Last Pearl A Leaf from Heaven Little Claus and Big Claus The Little Green Ones Little Ida's Flowers The Little Match Seller The Little Mermaid Little Tuck Luck May Lie in a Pin Lucky Peer The Marsh King's Daughter The Metal Pig The Money Pig The Most Incredible Thing Moving Day The Naughty Boy The Neighboring Families The New Century's Goddess The Nightcap of the "Pebersvend" The Nightingale The Old Church Bell The Old House The Old Oak Tree's Last Dream The Old Street Lamp The Old Tombstone Ole Lukoie Ole, the Tower Keeper On Judgment Day Peiter, Peter, and Peer Pen and Inkstand The Penman The Phoenix Bird Picturebook Without Pictures A Picture from the Ramparts The Pigs The Poor Woman and the Little Canary Bird The Porter's Son The Princess and the Pea The Psyche The Puppet-show Man The Racers The Rags The Red Shoes The Rose Elf A Rose from Homer's Grave The Shadow The Shepherdess and the Chimney-Sweep She Was Good for Nothing The Shirt Collar The Silent Book The Silver Shilling The Snail and the Rosebush The Snowdrop The Snow Man The Snow Queen Something Soup on a Sausage Peg The Stone of the Wise Man The Storks The Storm Shifts the Signboards A Story A Story from the Sand Dunes The Story of a Mother The Story of the Year A String of Pearls Sunshine Stories The Swan's Nest The Sweethearts; or, The Top and the Ball The Swineherd The Talisman The Teapot There is a Difference This Fable is Intended for You The Thorny Road of Honor Thousands of Years from Now Thumbelina The Tinder Box The Toad The Traveling Companion Twelve by the Mail Two Brothers Two Maidens The Ugly Duckling Under The Willow Tree Urbanus A View from Vartou's Window Vänö and Glänö What Happened to the Thistle What Old Johanne Told What One Can Invent What the Old Man Does is Always Right What the Whole Family Said Which Was the Happiest? The Wicked Prince The Wild Swans The Will-o'-the-Wisps Are in Town The Windmill The Wind Tells about Valdemar Daae and His Daughters The World's Fairest Rose

Near the green ramparts that run around Copenhagen is a large red house with many windows. These are garnished with balsams and green leaves, but the rooms within are bare and rude, for poor old folk live there. This place is called Vartou.

Look there! An old maid is leaning out of a window, plucking the withered leaves from her balsam, and looking over the green rampart where happy children are playing. What is she thinking about? A whole life drama unfolds before her mind's eye.

The poor children, how gaily they play! What bright eyes and what red cheeks! But they have neither shoes nor stockings. And they are dancing and playing on the green rampart, on that very spot where, as the old story goes, the ground always sank in until an innocent child was lured with flowers and toys into its open grave, which was walled up even while the child played. Then the ramparts were firm and were soon covered with a garment of beautiful green turf. But the children have never heard that old legend, or else they would hear the poor little one still weeping beneath the mound, and the dew on the grass would seem to them the pearls of her tears.

Nor have they heard the story of that ancient king of Denmark who, when the enemy lay encamped around the city, rode past this very spot, and swore he would die at his post; or how the women and men together poured boiling water down on the white-clad foemen as they crawled up through the snow on the outer side of the ramparts.

Play on, little ones!

Yes, play, little girl, for years pass quickly! Yes, the blessed years! Soon enough will come that solemn confirmation time, when the candidates walk together hand in hand, and you among them, in a white dress which your mother, with much time and labor, has fashioned from her own confirmation dress of long years ago. You will get a red shawl too; it is far too big for you, but at least everyone can see how large it is, much too large. You think about your attire and about the kind Father above. And it is wonderful indeed to walk on the green ramparts after the services.

Then the years roll on; dark days come, but youth is ever hopeful. You have a new friend, you know not how you met. You walk together on the rampart in the early spring, when all the church bells toll out on the solemn prayer day. No violets are yet in blossom, but just outside Rosenborg Castle you pause beside a tree decked with the first green buds of spring. There you both pause. Each year that tree puts forth fresh green shoots; but the human heart does not, and the clouds that pass over the mind of man are heavier and darker than ever the northern skies have known.

Poor child! Your bridegroom's bridal chamber shall be a coffin, and you shall live on, an old maid; from Vartou you shall peer through the balsam blossoms, watch the children at play, and see your own history repeated.

This is indeed the life drama that unfolds before the eyes of the old maid who looks out on the ramparts, where the sun shines, and the merry red-cheeked children sing and play in their bare feet, carefree as the birds of he air themselves.

The End

Fables & Tales Nonfiction Poetry Short Stories

Aesop Andersen, H.C. Dickinson, Emily Frost, Robert Grimm Henry, O Kipling, Rudyard Longfellow, Henry Poe, Edgar Allan Shakespeare, William Thoreau, Henry Twain, Mark Wilde, Oscar