Hans Christian Andersen : The Dying Child
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Hans Christian Andersen : The Dying Child

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Hans Christian Andersen wrote the poem "Det døende Barn" ('The dying child'), when he was at the school in Elsinore, living with the strict principal Simon Meisling. Meisling had prohibited Andersen from writing poetry – he shouldn't waste his time on such nonsense! – but Andersen wrote this felicitous sentimental poem anyway. He couldn't help indulge himself and read it aloud, and the qualities of the poem were soon recognized. The sentimental style and issue of the poem were not unusual at the time. On the contrary, emotional writings were in fashion.

The first publishing of the poem was Ludolph Schley's German translation, which was printed anonymously and without Andersen knowing anything about it in a newspaper in Libau, East Prussia, in the summer of 1827. Ludolph Schley had arrived there as Swedish secretary to the Consulate after leaving Elsinore in 1826. Schley and Andersen had met in Elsinore. Source: Johan de Mylius: The Life of Hans Christian Andersen. Day By Day, the year 1827.

The poem was published for the first time in Danish in A.P. Liunge's newspaper Kjøbenhavnsposten ('The Copenhagen Post') on 25th September 1827, aside with Schley's translation. Further details and links in the index of works.

The poem was translated into Greenlandic by the missionary Knud Kjer in 1829 and into French by Xavier Marmier in 1837. It was translated again into German for Sämtliche Werke in 1853.

The following English translation is copied from the text version of The Pearl Story Book. A Collection of Tales, Original and Selected, by Mrs. Colman, 1850, at The Project Gutenberg EBook; see There is no information about the translator of the poem, but it is probably Mary Howitt.

The Danish original follows underneath.

The Hans Christian Andersen Museum has contributed to these pages about "The dying Child" with detailed information about the issued versions and facsimiles of the Danish text and Schley's german translation and Kjer's Greenlandic translation, both in "Kjøbenhavnsposten".

The Dying Child

By Hans Christian Andersen.

Mother, I'm tired, and I would fain be sleeping;
Let me repose upon thy bosom sick;
But promise me that thou wilt leave off weeping,
Because thy tears fall hot upon my cheek.

Here it is cold: the tempest raveth madly;
But in my dreams all is so wondrous bright;
I see the angel-children smiling gladly,
When from my weary eyes I shut out light.

Mother, one stands beside me now! and, listen!
Dost thou not hear the music's sweet accord?
See how his white wings beautifully glisten?
Surely those wings were given him by the Lord!

Green, gold, and red, are floating all around me;
They are the flowers the angel scattereth.
Should I have also wings while life has bound me?
Or, mother, are they given alone in death?

Why dost thou clasp me as if I were going?
Why dost thou press thy cheek so unto mine?
Thy cheek is hot, and yet thy tears are flowing!
I will, dear mother, will be always thine!

Do not sigh thus – it marreth my reposing;
But if thou weep, then I must weep with thee!
Ah, I am tired – my weary eyes are closing –
Look, mother, look! the angel kisseth me!

The Danish original text:

Det døende Barn

Moder, jeg er træt, nu vil jeg sove,
Lad mig ved dit Hjerte slumre ind;
Græd dog ei det maa Du først mig love,
Thi Din Taare brænder paa min Kind.
Her er koldt og ude Stormen truer,
Men i Drømme, der er Alt saa smukt,
Og de søde Englebørn jeg skuer
Naar jeg har det trætte Øie lukt.

Moder, seer Du Englen ved min Side?
Hører Du den deilige Musik?
See, han har to Vinger smukke hvide,
Dem han sikkert af vor Herre fik;
Grønt og Guult og Rødt for Øiet svæver
Det er Blomster Engelen udstrøer!
Faaer jeg ogsaa Vinger mens jeg lever,
Eller, Moder, faaer jeg naar jeg døer?

Hvorfor trykker saa Du mine Hænder?
Hvorfor lægger Du din Kind til min?
Den er vaad, og dog som Ild den brænder,
Moder, jeg vil altid være din!
Men saa maa Du ikke længer sukke,
Græder Du, saa græder jeg med Dig,
O, jeg er saa træt! – maa Øiet lukke –
– Moder – see! nu kysser Englen mig!