Hans Christian Andersen

Thousands of Years from Now

Well, thousands of years from now they will come through the air, traversing the ocean on wings of steam! The young inhabitants of America will visit ancient Europe. They will come to the monuments here and to the decaying cities, just as we in our own age travel to the mouldering marvels of Southern Asia.

Thousands of years from now they will come!

The Thames, Danube and Rhine will still be flowing; Mont Blanc standing with its snow-clad summit, the northern lights shimmering above the countries of the North, but generation upon generation will have become dust, rows of those briefly in power forgotten, like those who already slumber in their burial barrow, where the wealthy flour merchant on whose land it stands has fashioned himself a bench where he can sit and gaze over the flat, waving fields of corn.

‘To Europe!’ is the cry of the young Americans – – ‘to the land of our forebears, the lovely land of memories and imagination, Europe!’

The airship arrives, crammed with passengers since the crossing is swifter than by sea; the electromagnetic cables under the ocean have already telegraphed just how large the aerial caravan is. Europe comes into view, it is the coastline of Ireland that is visible, but the passengers are still asleep; they do not wish to be woken before they are above England; there they can set foot on Europe in Shakespeare’s land, as cultured people refer to it – the land of politics, the land of machinery as others call it.

They spend a whole day here, so much time this busy generation is prepared to give great England and Scotland.

The journey then continues through the Channel Tunnel to France, the land of Charlemagne and Napoleon. Molière is mentioned, the educated among them talk of a classical and romantic school in the distant past and the praise is sung of heroes, bards and scientists of which our age knows nothing, but who are to be born on the crater of Europe: Paris.

The air-steamer flies over the country from which Columbus set sail, where Cortez was born, and where Calderon sang dramas in surging verse; lovely, dark-eyed women still dwell in the blossoming valleys, and in the ancient songs Cid and Alhambra are mentioned.

Through the air, over the sea to Italy, where ancient, eternal Rome once lay; it has been obliterated, Campagna is a desert, only a small section of the ruined wall of St. Peter’s Church still remains, though its authenticity is called into question.

To Greece, to sleep for one night in the luxury hotel on the top of Mount Olympus, so that one can say one has been there; then on to Bosporus, to rest for a few hours and see the place where Byzantium once lay; poor fishermen still spread out their nets where the legend tells of the harem garden at the time of Turkish rule.

Remains of mighty cities down by the fast-flowing Danube, cities our time did not know, are flown over, but here and there – the rich places of memories, those that come, those to which time gives birth – here and there the air caravan descends and then ascends once more.

Below lies Germany – once criss-crossed by the densest network of railways and canals – the lands where Luther spoke, Goethe sang, and where Mozart once held the sceptre of music! Great names gleamed in science and art, names we do not know. A one-day stay for Germany and one more for the North, for the fatherland of Ørsted and Linnaeus and Norway, the land of the ancient heroes and young Norwegians. Iceland is included on the homeward trip, the geysers no longer spout, Hekla is now extinct, but like the saga’s eternal slab of stone the strong rocky island stands in the foaming sea!

‘There’s so much to see in Europe!’ the young American says, ‘and we have seen it all in eight days, and it can be done, as the great traveller – a contemporary name is mentioned – has shown us in his famous work: “Seeing Europe in Eight Days”.’



Henvis til værket

Hans Christian Andersen: Thousands of Years from Now. Translated by John Irons, edited by , published by The Hans Christian Andersen Centre, University of Southern Denmark, Odense. Version 1.0. Published 2024-04-01[INFO OM 18-binds-udgaven 2003-2009...] for Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab. Digitaliseret af Holger Berg til sitet hcandersen.dk

Creative Commons, BY-NC-SA