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pen and ink stand.
by hans christian andersen.
Start of Story
Age Rating 8 plus.
IN A POET'S room, where his inkstand stood on the table, the remark was
once made: "It is wonderful what can be brought out of an inkstand. What
will come next? It is indeed wonderful."
"Yes, certainly," said the inkstand to the pen and to the other articles
that stood on the table; "that's what I always say. It is wonderful and
extraordinary what a number of things come out of me. It's quite
incredible, and I really never know what is coming next when that man
dips his pen into me. One drop out of me is enough for half a page of
paper--and what cannot half a page contain?
"From me all the works of the poet are produced--all those imaginary
characters whom people fancy they have known or met, and all the deep
feeling, the humor, and the vivid pictures of nature. I myself don't
understand how it is, for I am not acquainted with nature, but it is
certainly in me. From me have gone forth to the world those wonderful
descriptions of charming maidens, and of brave knights on prancing
steeds; of the halt and the blind--and I know not what more, for I
assure you I never think of these things."
"There you are right," said the pen, "for you don't think at all. If you
did, you would see that you can only provide the means. You give the
fluid, that I may place upon the paper what dwells in me and what I wish
to bring to light. It is the pen that writes. No man doubts that; and
indeed most people understand as much about poetry as an old inkstand."
"You have had very little experience," replied the inkstand. "You have
hardly been in service a week and are already half worn out. Do you
imagine you are a poet? You are only a servant, and before you came I
had many like you, some of the goose family and others of English
manufacture. I know a quill pen as well as I know a steel one. I have
had both sorts in my service, and I shall have many more as long as _he_
comes--the man who performs the mechanical part--and writes down what he
obtains from me. I should like to know what will be the next thing he
gets out of me."
"Inkpot!" retorted the pen, contemptuously.
Late in the evening the poet returned home from a concert, where he had
been quite enchanted by the admirable performance of a famous violin
The player had produced from his instrument a richness of tone that
sometimes sounded like tinkling water drops or rolling pearls, sometimes
like the birds twittering in chorus, and then again, rising and swelling
like the wind through the fir trees. The poet felt as if his own heart
were weeping, but in tones of melody, like the sound of a woman's voice.
These sounds seemed to come not only from the strings but from every
part of the instrument. It was a wonderful performance and a difficult
piece, and yet the bow seemed to glide across the strings so easily
that one would think any one could do it. The violin and the bow seemed
independent of their master who guided them. It was as if soul and
spirit had been breathed into the instrument. And the audience forgot
the performer in the beautiful sounds he produced.
Not so the poet; he remembered him and wrote down his thoughts on the
subject: "How foolish it would be for the violin and the bow to boast of
their performance, and yet we men often commit that folly. The poet, the
artist, the man of science in his laboratory, the general--we all do it,
and yet we are only the instruments which the Almighty uses. To Him
alone the honor is due. We have nothing in ourselves of which we should
be proud." Yes, this is what the poet wrote. He wrote it in the form of
a parable and called it "The Master and the Instruments."
"That is what you get, madam," said the pen to the inkstand when the two
were alone again. "Did you hear him read aloud what I had written down?"
"Yes, what I gave you to write," retorted the inkstand. "That was a cut
at you, because of your conceit. To think that you could not understand
that you were being quizzed! I gave you a cut from within me. Surely I
must know my own satire."
"Ink pitcher!" cried the pen.
"Writing stick!" retorted the inkstand. And each of them felt satisfied
that he had given a good answer. It is pleasing to be convinced that you
have settled a matter by your reply; it is something to make you sleep
well. And they both slept well over it.
But the poet did not sleep. Thoughts rose within him, like the tones of
the violin, falling like pearls or rushing like the strong wind through
the forest. He understood his own heart in these thoughts; they were as
a ray from the mind of the Great Master of all minds.
"To Him be all the honor."