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《海的女儿》中英对照
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《海的女儿》中英对照
《海的女儿》中英对照 (转发)


在海的远处,水是那么蓝,像最美丽的矢车菊花瓣,同时又是那么清,像最明亮的玻璃。然而它是很深很深,深得任何锚链都达不到底。要想从海底一直达到水面,必须有许多许多教堂尖塔一个接着一个地联起来才成。海底的人就住在这下面。
  不过人们千万不要以为那儿只是一片铺满了白砂的海底。不是的,那儿生长着最奇异的树木和植物。它们的枝干和叶子是那么柔软,只要水轻微地流动一下,它们就摇动起来,好像它们是活着的东西。所有的大小鱼儿在这些枝子中间游来游去,像是天空的飞鸟。海里最深的地方是海王宫殿所在的处所。它的墙是用珊瑚砌成的,它那些尖顶的高窗子是用最亮的琥珀做成的;不过屋顶上却铺着黑色的蚌壳,它们随着水的流动可以自动地开合。这是怪好看的,国为每一颗蚌壳里面含有亮晶晶的珍珠。随便哪一颗珍珠都可以成为皇后帽子上最主要的装饰品。
  住在那底下的海王已经做了好多年的鳏夫,但是他有老母亲为他管理家务。她是一个聪明的女人,可是对于自己高贵的出身总是感到不可一世,因此她的尾巴上老戴着一打的牡蛎——其余的显贵只能每人戴上半打。除此以外,她是值得大大的称赞的,特别是因为她非常爱那些小小的海公主——她的一些孙女。她们是六个美丽的孩子,而她们之中,那个顶小的要算是最美丽的了。她的皮肤又光又嫩,像玫瑰的花瓣,她的眼睛是蔚蓝色的,像最深的湖水。不过,跟其他的公主一样,她没有腿:她身体的下部是一条鱼尾。
  她们可以把整个漫长的日子花费在皇宫里,在墙上生有鲜花的大厅里。那些琥珀镶的大窗子是开着的,鱼儿向着她们游来,正如我们打开窗子的时候,燕子会飞进来一样。不过鱼儿一直游向这些小小的公主,在她们的手里找东西吃,让她们来抚摸自己。
  宫殿外面有一个很大的花园,里边生长着许多火红和深蓝色的树木;树上的果子亮得像黄金,花朵开得像焚烧着的火,花枝和叶子在不停地摇动。地上全是最细的砂子,但是蓝得像硫黄发出的光焰。在那儿,处处都闪着一种奇异的、蓝色的光彩。你很容易以为你是高高地在空中而不是在海底,你的头上和脚下全是一片蓝天。当海是非常沉静的时候,你可瞥见太阳:它像一朵紫色的花,从它的花萼里射出各种色彩的光。
  在花园里,每一位小公主有自己的一小块地方,在那上面她可以随意栽种。有的把自己的花坛布置得像一条鲸鱼,有的觉得最好把自己的花坛布置得像一个小人鱼。可是最年幼的那位却把自己的花坛布置得圆圆的,像一轮太阳,同时她也只种像太阳一样红的花朵。她是一个古怪的孩子,不大爱讲话,总是静静地在想什么东西。当别的姊妹们用她们从沉船里所获得的最奇异的东西来装饰她们的花园的时候,她除了像高空的太阳一样艳红的花朵以外,只愿意有一个美丽的大理石像。这石像代表一个美丽的男子,它是用一块洁白的石头雕出来的,跟一条遭难的船一同沉到海底。她在这石像旁边种了一株像玫瑰花那样红的垂柳。这树长得非常茂盛。它新鲜的枝叶垂向这个石像、一直垂到那蓝色的砂底。它的倒影带有一种紫蓝的色调。像它的枝条一样,这影子也从不静止,树根和树顶看起来好像在做着互相亲吻的游戏。
  她最大的愉快是听些关于上面人类的世界的故事。她的老祖母不得不把自己所有一切关于船只和城市、人类和动物的知识讲给她听。特别使她感到美好的一件事情是:地上的花儿能散发出香气来,而海底上的花儿却不能;地上的森林是绿色的,而且人们所看到的在树枝间游来游去的鱼儿会唱得那么清脆和好听,叫人感到愉快。老祖母所说的“鱼儿”事实上就是小鸟,但是假如她不这样讲的话,小公主就听不懂她的故事了,因为她还从来没有看到过一只小鸟。
  “等你满了十五岁的时候,”老祖母说,“我就准许你浮到海面上去。那时你可以坐在月光底下的石头上面,看巨大的船只在你身边驶过去。你也可以看到树林和城市。”
  在这快要到来的一年,这些姊妹中有一位到了十五岁;可是其余的呢——晤,她们一个比一个小一岁。因此最年幼的那位公主还要足足地等五个年头才能够从海底浮上来,来看看我们的这个世界。不过每一位答应下一位说,她要把她第一天所看到和发现的东西讲给大家听,因为她们的祖母所讲的确是不太够——她们所希望了解的东西真不知有多少!
  她们谁也没有像年幼的那位妹妹渴望得厉害,而她恰恰要等待得最久,同时她是那么地沉默和富于深思。不知有多少夜晚她站在开着的窗子旁边,透过深蓝色的水朝上面凝望,凝望着鱼儿挥动着它们的尾巴和翅。她还看到月亮和星星——当然,它们射出的光有些发淡,但是透过一层水,它们看起来要比在我们人眼中大得多。假如有一块类似黑云的东西在它们下面浮过去的话,她便知道这不是一条鲸鱼在她上面游过去,便是一条装载着许多旅客的船在开行。可是这些旅客们再也想像不到,他们下面有一位美丽的小人鱼,在朝着他们船的龙骨伸出她一双洁白的手。
  现在最大的那位公主已经到了十五岁,可以升到水面上去了。
  当她回来的时候,她有无数的事情要讲:不过她说,最美的事情是当海上风平浪静的时候,在月光底下躺在一个沙滩上面,紧贴着海岸凝望那大城市里亮得像无数星星似的灯光,静听音乐、闹声、以及马车和人的声音,观看教堂的圆塔和尖塔,倾听叮当的钟声。正因为她不能到那儿去,所以她也就最渴望这些东西。
  啊,最小的那位妹妹听得多么入神啊!当她晚间站在开着的窗子旁边、透过深蓝色的水朝上面望的时候,她就想起了那个大城市以及它里面熙熙攘攘的声音。于是她似乎能听到教堂的钟声在向她这里飘来。
  第二年第二个姐姐得到许可,可以浮出水面,可以随便向什么地方游去。她跳出水面的时候,太阳刚刚下落;她觉得这景象真是美极了。她说,这时整个的天空看起来像一块黄金,而云块呢——唔,她真没有办法把它们的美形容出来!它们在她头上掠过,一忽儿红,一忽儿紫。不过,比它们飞得还要快的、像一片又自又长的面纱,是一群掠过水面的野天鹅。它们是飞向太阳,她也向太阳游去。可是太阳落了。一片玫瑰色的晚霞,慢慢地在海面和云块之间消逝了。
  又过了一年,第三个姐姐浮上去了。她是她们中最大胆的一位,因此她游向一条流进海里的大河里去了。她看到一些美丽的青山,上面种满了一行一行的葡萄。宫殿和田庄在郁茂的树林中隐隐地露在外面;她听到各种鸟儿唱得多么美好,太阳照得多么暖和,她有时不得不沉入水里,好使得她灼热的面孔能够得到一点清凉。在一个小河湾里她碰到一群人间的小孩子;他们光着身子,在水里游来游去。她倒很想跟他们玩一会儿,可是他们吓了一跳,逃走了。于是一个小小的黑色动物走了过来——这是一条小狗,是她从来没有看到过的小狗。它对她汪汪地叫得那么凶狠,弄得她害怕起来,赶快逃到大海里去。可是她永远忘记不了那壮丽的森林,那绿色的山,那些能够在水里游泳的可爱的小宝宝——虽然他们没有像鱼那样的尾巴。
  第四个姐姐可不是那么大胆了。她停留在荒凉的大海上面。她说,最美的事儿就是停在海上:因为你可以从这儿向四周很远很远的地方望去,同时天空悬在上面像一个巨大的玻璃钟。她看到过船只,不过这些船只离她很远,看起来像一只海鸥。她看到过快乐的海豚翻着筋斗,庞大的鲸鱼从鼻孔里喷出水来,好像有无数的喷泉在围绕着它们一样。
  现在临到那第五个姐姐了。她的生日恰恰是在冬天,所以她能看到其他的姐姐们在第一次浮出海面时所没有看到过的东西。海染上了一片绿色,巨大的冰山在四周移动。她说每一座冰山看起来像一颗珠子,然而却比人类所建造的教堂塔还要大得多。它们以种种奇奇怪怪的形状出现;它们像钻石似的射出光彩。她曾经在一个最大的冰山上坐过,让海风吹着她细长的头发,所有的船只,绕过她坐着的那块地方,惊惶地远远避开。不过在黄昏的时分,天上忽然布起了一片乌云。电闪起来了,雷轰起未了。黑色的巨浪掀起整片整片的冰块,使它们在血红的雷电中闪着光。所有的船只都收下了帆,造成一种惊惶和恐怖的气氛,但是她却安静地坐在那浮动的冰山上,望着蓝色的网电,弯弯曲曲地射进反光的海里。
  这些姊妹们中随便哪一位,只要是第一次升到海面上去,总是非常高兴地观看这些新鲜和美丽的东西。可是现在呢,她们已经是大女孩子了,可以随便浮近她们喜欢去的地方,因此这些东西就不再太引起她们的兴趣了。她们渴望回到家里来。一个来月以后,她们就说:究竟还是住在海里好——家里是多么舒服啊!
  在黄昏的时候,这五个姊妹常常手挽着手地浮上来,在水面上排成一行。她们能唱出好听的歌声——比任何人类的声音还要美丽。当风暴快要到来、她们认为有些船只快要出事的时候,她们就浮到这些船的面前,唱起非常美丽的歌来,说是海底下是多么可爱,同时告诉这些水手不要害怕沉到海底;然而这些人却听不懂她们的歌词。他们以为这是巨风的声息。他们也想不到他们会在海底看到什么美好的东西,因为如果船沉了的话,上面的人也就淹死了,他们只有作为死人才能到达海王的官殿。
  有一天晚上,当姊妹们这么手挽着手地浮出海面的时候,最小的那位妹妹单独地呆在后面,瞧着她们。看样子她好像是想要哭一场似的,不过人鱼是没有眼泪的,因此她更感到难受。
  “啊,我多么希望我已经有十五岁啊!”她说。“我知道我将会喜欢上面的世界,喜欢住在那个世界里的人们的。”
  最后她真的到了十五岁了。
  “你知道,你现在可以离开我们的手了,”她的祖母老皇太后说。“来吧,让我把你打扮得像你的那些姐姐一样吧。”
  于是她在这小姑娘的头发上戴上一个百合花编的花环,不过这花的每一个花瓣是半颗珍珠。老太太又叫八个大牡蛎紧紧地附贴在公主的尾上,来表示她高贵的地位。
  “这叫我真难受!”小人鱼说。
  “当然咯,为了漂亮,一个人是应该吃点苦头的,”老祖母说。
  哎,她倒真想能摆脱这些装饰品,把这沉重的花环扔向一边!她花园里的那些红花,她戴起来要适合得多,但是她不敢这样办。“再会吧!”她说。于是她轻盈和明朗得像一个水泡,冒出水面了。
  当她把头伸出海面的时候,太阳已经下落了,可是所有的云块还是像玫瑰花和黄金似地发着光;同时,在这淡红的天上,大白星已经在美丽地、光亮地眨着眼睛。空气是温和的、新鲜的。海是非常平静,这儿停着一艘有三根桅杆的大船。船上只挂了一张帆,因为没有一丝儿风吹动。水手们正坐在护桅索的周围和帆桁的上面。
  这儿有音乐,也有歌声。当黄昏逐渐变得阴暗的时候,各色各样的灯笼就一起亮起来了。它们看起来就好像飘在空中的世界各国的旗帜。小人鱼一直向船窗那儿游去。每次当海浪把她托起来的时候,她可以透过像镜子一样的窗玻璃,望见里面站着许多服装华丽的男子;但他们之中最美的一位是那有一对大黑眼珠的王子:无疑地,他的年纪还不到十六岁。今天是他的生日,正因为这个缘故,今天才这样热闹。
  水手们在甲板上跳着舞。当王子走出来的时候,有一百多发火箭一齐向天空射出。天空被照得如同自昼,因此小人鱼非常惊恐起来,赶快沉到水底。可是不一会儿她文把头伸出来了——这时她觉得好像满天的星星都在向她落下,她从来没有看到过这样的焰火。许多巨大的太阳在周围发出嘘嘘的响声,光耀夺目的大鱼在向蓝色的空中飞跃。这一切都映到这清明的、平静的海上。这船全身都被照得那么亮,连每根很小的绳子都可以看得出来,船上的人当然更可以看得清楚了。啊,这位年轻的王子是多么美丽啊!当音乐在这光华灿烂的夜里慢慢消逝的时候,他跟水手们握着手,大笑,微笑……
  夜已经很晚了,但是小人鱼没有办法把她的眼睛从这艘船和这位美丽的王子撇开。那些彩色的灯笼熄了,火箭不再向空中发射了,炮声也停止了。可是在海的深处起了一种嗡嗡和隆隆的声音。她坐在水上,一起一伏地漂着,所以她能看到船舱里的东西。可是船加快了速度:它的帆都先后张起来了。浪涛大起来了,沉重的乌云浮起来了,远处掣起闪电来了。啊,可怕的大风暴快要到来了!水手们因此都收下了帆。这条巨大的船在这狂暴的海上摇摇摆摆地向前急驶。浪涛像庞大的黑山似地高涨。它想要折断桅杆。可是这船像天鹅似的,一忽儿投进洪涛里面,一忽儿又在高大的浪头上抬起头来。
  小人鱼觉得这是一种很有趣的航行,可是水手们的看法却不是这样。这艘船现在发出碎裂的声音;它粗厚的板壁被袭来的海涛打弯了。船桅像芦苇似的在半中腰折断了。后来船开始倾斜,水向舱里冲了进来。这时小人鱼才知道他们遭遇到了危险。她也得当心漂流在水上的船梁和船的残骸。
  天空马上变得漆黑,她什么也看不见。不过当闪电掣起来的时候,天空又显得非常明亮,使她可以看出船上的每一个人。现在每个人在尽量为自己寻找生路。她特别注意那位王子。当这艘船裂开、向海的深处下沉的时候,她看到了他。她马上变得非常高兴起来,因为他现在要落到她这儿来了。可是她又记起人类是不能生活在水里的,他除非成了死人,是不能进入她父亲的官殿的。
  不成,决不能让他死去!所以她在那些漂着的船梁和木板之间游过去,一点也没有想到它们可能把她砸死。她深深地沉入水里,接着又在浪涛中高高地浮出来,最后她终于到达了那王子的身边,在这狂暴的海里,他决没有力量再浮起来。他的手臂和腿开始支持不住了。他美丽的眼睛已经闭起来了。要不是小人鱼及时赶来,他一定是会淹死的。她把他的头托出水面,让浪涛载着她跟他一起随便漂流到什么地方去。
  天明时分,风暴已经过去了。那条船连一块碎片也没有。鲜红的太阳升起来了,在水上光耀地照着。它似乎在这位王子的脸上注入了生命。不过他的眼睛仍然是闭着的。小人鱼把他清秀的高额吻了一下,把他透湿的长发理向脑后。她觉得他的样子很像她在海底小花园里的那尊大理石像。她又吻了他一下,希望他能苏醒过来。
  现在她看见她前面展开一片陆地和一群蔚蓝色的高山,山顶上闪耀着的白雪看起来像睡着的天鹅。沿着海岸是一片美丽的绿色树林,林子前面有一个教堂或是修道院——她不知道究竟叫做什么,反正总是一个建筑物罢了。它的花园里长着一些柠檬和橘子树,门前立着很高的棕榈。海在这儿形成一个小湾。水是非常平静的,但是从这儿一直到那积有许多细砂的石崖附近,都是很深的。她托着这位美丽的王子向那儿游去。她把他放到沙上,非常仔细地使他的头高高地搁在温暖的太阳光里。
  钟声从那幢雄伟的白色建筑物中响起来了,有许多年轻女子穿过花园走出来。小人鱼远远地向海里游去,游到冒在海面上的几座大石头的后面。她用许多海水的泡沫盖住了她的头发和胸脯,好使得谁也看不见她小小的面孔。她在这儿凝望着,看有谁会来到这个可怜的王子身边。
  不一会儿,一个年轻的女子走过来了。她似乎非常吃惊,不过时间不久,于是她找了许多人来。小人鱼看到王子渐渐地苏醒过来了,并且向周围的人发出微笑。可是他没有对她作出微笑的表情:当然,他一点也不知道救他的人就是她。她感到非常难过。因此当他被抬进那幢高大的房子里去的时候,她悲伤地跳进海里,回到她父亲的宫殿里去。
  她一直就是一个沉静和深思的孩子,现在她变得更是这样了。她的姐姐们都问她,她第一次升到海面上去究竟看到了一些什么东西,但是她什么也说不出来。
  有好多晚上和早晨,她浮出水面,向她曾经放下王子的那块地方游去。她看到那花园里的果子熟了,被摘下来了;她看到高山顶上的雪融化了;但是她看不见那个王子。所以她每次回到家来,总是更感到痛苦。她的唯一的安慰是坐在她的小花园里,用双手抱着与那位王子相似的美丽的大理石像。可是她再也不照料她的花儿了。这些花儿好像是生长在旷野中的东西,铺得满地都是:它们的长梗和叶子跟树枝交叉在一起,使这地方显得非常阴暗。
  最后她再也忍受不住了。不过只要她把她的心事告诉给一个姐姐,马上其余的人也就都知道了。但是除了她们和别的一两个人鱼以外(她们只把这秘密转告给自己几个知己的朋友),别的什么人也不知道。她们之中有一位知道那个王子是什么人。她也看到过那次在船上举行的庆祝。她知道这位王子是从什么地方来的,他的王国在什么地方。
  “来吧,小妹妹!”别的公主们说。她们彼此把手搭在肩上,一长排地升到海面,一直游到一块她们认为是王子的宫殿的地方。
  这宫殿是用一种发光的淡黄色石块建筑的,里面有许多宽大的大理石台阶——有一个台阶还一直伸到海里呢。华丽的、金色的圆塔从屋顶上伸向空中。在围绕着这整个建筑物的圆柱中间,立着许多大理石像。它们看起来像是活人一样。透过那些高大窗子的明亮玻璃,人们可以看到一些富丽堂皇的大厅,里面悬着贵重的丝窗帘和织锦,墙上装饰着大幅的图画——就是光看看这些东西也是一桩非常愉快的事情。在最大的一个厅堂中央,有一个巨大的喷泉在喷着水。水丝一直向上面的玻璃圆屋顶射去,而太阳又透过这玻璃射下来,照到水上,照到生长在这大水池里的植物上面。
  现在她知道王子住在什么地方。在这儿的水上她度过好几个黄昏和黑夜。她远远地向陆地游去,比任何别的姐姐敢去的地方还远。的确,她甚至游到那个狭小的河流里去,直到那个壮丽的大理石阳台下面——它长长的阴影倒映在水上。她在这儿坐着,瞧着那个年轻的王子,而这位王子却还以为月光中只有他一个人呢。
  有好几个晚上,她看到他在音乐声中乘着那艘飘着许多旗帜的华丽的船。她从绿灯芯草中向上面偷望。当风吹起她银白色的长面罩的时候,如果有人看到的话,他们总以为这是一只天鹅在展开它的翅膀。
  有好几个夜里,当渔夫们打着火把出海捕鱼的时候,她听到他们对于这位王子说了许多称赞的话语。她高兴起来,觉得当浪涛把他冲击得半死的时候,是她来救了他的生命;她记起他的头是怎样紧紧地躺在她的怀里,她是多么热情地吻着他。可是这些事儿他自己一点也不知道,他连做梦也不会想到她。
  她渐渐地开始爱起人类来,渐渐地开始盼望能够生活在他们中间。她觉得他们的世界比她的天地大得多。的确,他们能够乘船在海上行驶,能够爬上高耸入云的大山,同时他们的土地,连带着森林和田野,伸展开来,使得她望都望不尽。她希望知道的东西真是不少,可是她的姐姐们都不能回答她所有的问题。因此她只有问她的老祖母。她对于“上层世界”——这是她给海上国家所起的恰当的名字——的确知道得相当清楚。
  “如果人类不淹死的话,”小人鱼问,“他们会永远活下去么?他们会不会像我们住在海里的人们一样地死去呢?”
  “一点也不错,”老太太说,“他们也会死的,而且他们的生命甚至比我们的还要短促呢。我们可以活到三百岁,不过当我们在这儿的生命结束的时候,我们就变成了水上的泡沫。我们甚至连一座坟墓也不留给我们这儿心爱的人呢。我们没有一个不灭的灵魂。我们从来得不到一个死后的生命。我们像那绿色的海草一样,只要一割断了,就再也绿不起来!相反地,人类有一个灵魂;它永远活着,即使身体化为尘土,它仍是活着的。它升向晴朗的天空,一直升向那些闪耀着的星星!正如我们升到水面、看到人间的世界一样,他们升向那些神秘的、华丽的、我们永远不会看见的地方。”
  “为什么我们得不到一个不灭的灵魂呢?”小人鱼悲哀地问。“只要我能够变成人、可以进入天上的世界,哪怕在那儿只活一天,我都愿意放弃我在这儿所能活的几百岁的生命,”
  “你决不能起这种想头,”老太太说。“比起上面的人类来,我们在这儿的生活要幸福和美好得多!”
  “那么我就只有死去,变成泡沫在水上漂浮了。我将再也听不见浪涛的音乐,看不见美丽的花朵和鲜红的太阳吗?难道我没有办法得到一个永恒的灵魂吗?”
  “没有!”老太太说。“只有当一个人爱你、把你当做比他父母还要亲切的人的时候:只有当他把他全部的思想和爱情都放在你身上的时候;只有当他让牧师把他的右手放在你的手里、答应现在和将来永远对你忠诚的时候,他的灵魂才会转移到你的身上去,而你就会得到一份人类的快乐。他就会分给你一个灵魂,而同时他自己的灵魂又能保持不灭。但是这类的事情是从来不会有的!我们在这儿海底所认为美丽的东西——你的那条鱼尾——他们在陆地上却认为非常难看:他们不知道什么叫做美丑。在他们那儿,一个人想要显得漂亮,必须生有两根呆笨的支柱——他们把它们叫做腿!”
  小人鱼叹了一口气,悲哀地把自己的鱼尾巴望了一眼。
  “我们放快乐些吧!”老太太说。“在我们能活着的这三百年中,让我们跳和舞吧。这究竟是一段相当长的时间,以后我们也可以在我们的坟墓里①愉快地休息了。今晚我们就在宫里开一个舞会吧!”
  那真是一个壮丽的场面,人们在陆地上是从来不会看见的。这个宽广的跳舞厅里的墙壁和天花板是用厚而透明的玻璃砌成的。成千成百草绿色和粉红色的巨型贝壳一排一排地立在四边;它们里面燃着蓝色的火焰,照亮整个的舞厅,照透了墙壁,因而也照明了外面的海。人们可以看到无数的大小鱼群向这座水晶官里游来,有的鳞上发着紫色的光,有的亮起来像白银和金子。一股宽大的激流穿过舞厅的中央,海里的男人和女人,唱着美丽的歌,就在这激流上跳舞,这样优美的歌声,住在陆地上的人们是唱不出来的。coc1①上回说人鱼死后变成海上的泡沫,这儿却说人鱼死后在坟墓里休息。大概作者写到这儿忘记了前面的话。coc2
  在这些人中间,小人鱼唱得最美。大家为她鼓掌;她心中有好一会儿感到非常快乐,因为她知道,在陆地上和海里只有她的声音最美。不过她马上又想起上面的那个世界。她忘不了那个美貌的王子,也忘不了她因为没有他那样不灭的灵魂而引起的悲愁。因此她偷偷地走出她父亲的宫殿:当里面正是充满了歌声和快乐的时候,她却悲哀地坐在她的小花园里。忽然她听到一个号角声从水上传来。她想:“他一定是在上面行船了:他——我爱他胜过我的爸爸和妈妈;他——我时时刻刻在想念他;我把我一生的幸福放在他的手里。我要牺牲一切来争取他和一个不灭的灵魂。当现在我的姐姐们正在父亲的官殿里跳舞的时候,我要去拜访那位海的巫婆。我一直是非常害怕她的,但是她也许能教给我一些办法和帮助我吧。”
  小人鱼于是走出了花园,向一个掀起泡沫的漩涡走去——巫婆就住在它的后面。她以前从来没有走过这条路。这儿没有花,也没有海草,只有光溜溜的一片灰色沙底,向漩涡那儿伸去。水在这儿像一架喧闹的水车似地漩转着,把它所碰到的东西部转到水底去。要到达巫婆所住的地区,她必须走过这急转的漩涡。有好长一段路程需要通过一条冒着热泡的泥地:巫婆把这地方叫做她的泥煤田。在这后面有一个可怕的森林,她的房子就在里面,所有的树和灌木林全是些珊瑚虫——一种半植物和半动物的东西。它们看起来很像地里冒出来的多头蛇。它们的枝桠全是长长的、粘糊糊的手臂,它们的手指全是像蠕虫一样柔软。它们从根到顶都是一节一节地在颤动。它们紧紧地盘住它们在海里所能抓得到的东西,一点也不放松。
  小人鱼在这森林面前停下步子,非常惊慌。她的心害怕得跳起来,她几乎想转身回去。但是当她一想起那位王子和人的灵魂的时候,她就又有了勇气。她把她飘动着的长头发牢牢地缠在她的头上,好使珊瑚虫抓不住她。她把双手紧紧地贴在胸前,于是她像水里跳着的鱼儿似的,在这些丑恶的珊瑚虫中间,向前跳走,而这些珊瑚虫只有在她后面挥舞着它们柔软的长臂和手指。她看到它们每一个都抓住了一件什么东西,无数的小手臂盘住它,像坚固的铁环一样。那些在海里淹死和沉到海底下的人们,在这些珊瑚虫的手臂里,露出白色的骸骨。它们紧紧地抱着船舵和箱子,抱着陆上动物的骸骨,还抱着一个被它们抓住和勒死了的小人鱼——这对于她说来,是一件最可怕的事情。
  现在她来到了森林中一块粘糊糊的空地。这儿又大又肥的水蛇在翻动着,露出它们淡黄色的、奇丑的肚皮。在这块地中央有一幢用死人的白骨砌成的房子。海的巫婆就正坐在这儿,用她的嘴喂一只癫蛤蟆,正如我们人用糖喂一只小金丝雀一样。她把那些奇丑的、肥胖的水蛇叫做她的小鸡,同时让它们在她肥大的、松软的胸口上爬来爬去。
  “我知道你是来求什么的,”海的巫婆说。“你是一个傻东西!不过,我美丽的公主,我还是会让你达到你的目的,因为这件事将会给你一个悲惨的结局。你想要去掉你的鱼尾,生出两根支柱,好叫你像人类一样能够行路。你想要叫那个王子爱上你,使你能得到他,因而也得到一个不灭的灵魂。”这时巫婆便可憎地大笑了一通,癫蛤蟆和水蛇都滚到地上来,在周围爬来爬去。“你来得正是时候,”巫婆说。“明天太阳出来以后,我就没有办法帮助你了,只有等待一年再说。我可以煎一服药给你喝。你带着这服药,在太阳出来以前,赶快游向陆地。你就坐在海滩上,把这服药吃掉,于是你的尾巴就可以分做两半,收缩成为人类所谓的漂亮腿子了。可是这是很痛的——这就好像有一把尖刀砍进你的身体。凡是看到你的人,一定会说你是他们所见到的最美丽的孩子!你将仍旧会保持你像游泳似的步子,任何舞蹈家也不会跳得像你那样轻柔。不过你的每一个步子将会使你觉得好像是在尖刀上行走,好像你的血在向外流。如果你能忍受得了这些苦痛的话,我就可以帮助你。”
  “我可以忍受,”小人鱼用颤抖的声音说。这时她想起了那个王子和她要获得一个不灭灵魂的志愿。
  “可是要记住,”巫婆说,“你一旦获得了一个人的形体,你就再也不能变成人鱼了,你就再也不能走下水来,回到你姐姐或你爸爸的官殿里来了。同时假如你得不到那个王子的爱情,假如你不能使他为你而忘记自己的父母、全心全意地爱你、叫牧师来把你们的手放在一起结成夫妇的话,你就不会得到一个不灭的灵魂了。在他跟别人结婚的头一天早晨,你的心就会裂碎,你就会变成水上的泡沫,”
  “我不怕!”小人鱼说。但她的脸像死一样惨白。
  “但是你还得给我酬劳!”巫婆说,“而且我所要的也并不是一件微小的东西。在海底的人们中,你的声音要算是最美丽的了。无疑地,你想用这声音去迷住他,可是这个声音你得交给我。我必须得到你最好的东西,作为我的贵重药物的交换品!我得把我自己的血放进这药里,好使它尖锐得像一柄两面部快的刀子!”
  “不过,如果你把我的声音拿去了,”小人鱼说,“那么我还有什么东西剩下呢?”
  “你还有美丽的身材呀,”巫婆回答说,“你还有轻盈的步子和富于表情的眼睛呀。有了这些东西,你就很容易迷住一个男人的心了。唔,你已经失掉了勇气吗?伸出你小小的舌头吧,我可以把它割下来作为报酬,你也可以得到这服强烈的药剂了。”
  “就这样办吧。”小人鱼说。巫婆于是就把药罐准备好,来煎这服富有魔力的药了。
  “清洁是一件好事,”她说;于是她用几条蛇打成一个结,用它来洗擦这罐子。然后她把自己的胸口抓破,让她的黑血滴到罐子里去。药的蒸气奇形怪状地升到空中,看起来是怪怕人的。每隔一会儿巫婆就加一点什么新的东西到药罐里去。当药煮到滚开的时候,有一个像鳄鱼的哭声飘出来了。最后药算是煎好了。它的样子像非常清亮的水。
  “拿去吧!”巫婆说。于是她就把小人鱼的舌头割掉了。小人鱼现在成了一个哑巴,既不能唱歌,也不能说话。
  “当你穿过我的森林回去的时候,如果珊瑚虫捉住了你的话,”巫婆说,“你只须把这药水洒一滴到它们的身上,它们的手臂和指头就会裂成碎片,向四边纷飞了。”可是小人鱼没有这样做的必要,固为当珊瑚虫一看到这亮晶晶的药水——它在她的手里亮得像一颗闪耀的星星——的时候,它们就在她面前惶恐地缩回去了。这样,她很快地就走过了森林、沼泽和激转的漩涡。
  她可以看到她父亲的官殿了。那宽大的跳舞厅里的火把已经灭了,无疑地,里面的人已经入睡了。不过她不敢再去看他们,因为她现在已经是一个哑巴,而且就要永远离开他们。她的心痛苦得似乎要裂成碎片。她偷偷地走进花园,从每个姐姐的花坛上摘下一朵花,对着皇官用手指飞了一千个吻,然后他就浮出这深蓝色的海。
  当她看到那王子的宫殿的时候,太阳还没有升起来。她庄严地走上那大理石台阶。月亮照得透明,非常美丽。小人鱼喝下那服强烈的药剂。她马上觉到好像有一柄两面都快的刀子劈开了她纤细的身体。她马上昏了。倒下来好像死去一样。当太阳照到海上的时候,她才醒过来,她感到一阵剧痛。这时有一位年轻貌美的王子正立在她的面前。他乌黑的眼珠正在望着她,弄得她不好意思地低下头来。这时她发现她的鱼尾已经没有了,而获得一双只有少女才有的、最美丽的小小白腿。可是她没有穿衣服,所以她用她浓密的长头发来掩住自己的身体。王子问她是谁,怎样到这儿来的。她用她深蓝色的眼睛温柔而又悲哀地望着他,因为她现在已经不会讲话了。他挽着她的手,把她领进宫殿里去。正如那巫婆以前跟她讲过的一样,她觉得每一步都好像是在锥子和利刀上行走。可是她情愿忍受这苦痛。她挽着王子的手臂,走起路来轻盈得像一个水泡。他和所有的人望着她这文雅轻盈的步子,感到惊奇。
  现在她穿上了丝绸和细纱做的贵重衣服。她是宫里一个最美丽的人,然而她是一个哑巴,既不能唱歌。也不能讲话。漂亮的女奴隶,穿着丝绸,戴着金银饰物,走上前来,为王子和他的父母唱着歌。有一个奴隶唱得最迷人,王子不禁鼓起掌来,对她发出微笑。这时小人鱼就感到一阵悲哀。她知道,有个时候她的歌声比那种歌声要美得多!她想:
  “啊!只愿他知道,为了要和他在一起,我永远牺牲了我的声音!”
  现在奴隶们跟着美妙的音乐,跳起优雅的、轻飘飘的舞来。这时小人鱼就举起她一双美丽的、白嫩的手,用脚尖站着,在地板上轻盈地跳着舞——从来还没有人这样舞过。她的每一个动作都衬托出她的美。她的眼珠比奴隶们的歌声更能打动人的心坎。
  大家都看得入了迷,特别是那位王于——他把她叫做他的“孤儿”。她不停地舞着,虽然每次当她的脚接触到地面的时候,她就像是在快利的刀上行走一样。王子说,她此后应该永远跟他在一起;因此她就得到了许可睡在他门外的一个天鹅绒的垫子上面。
  他叫人为她做了一套男子穿的衣服,好使她可以陪他骑着马同行。他们走过香气扑鼻的树林,绿色的树枝扫过他们的肩膀,鸟儿在新鲜的叶子后面唱着歌。她和王子爬上高山。虽然她纤细的脚已经流出血来,而且也叫大家都看见了,她仍然只是大笑,继续伴随着他,一直到他们看到云块在下面移动、像一群向遥远国家飞去的小鸟为止。
  在王子的宫殿里,夜里大家都睡了以后,她就向那宽大的台阶走去。为了使她那双发烧的脚可以感到一点清凉,她就站进寒冷的海水里。这时她不禁想起了住在海底的人们。
  有一天夜里,她的姐姐们手挽着手浮过来了。她们一面在水上游泳,一面唱出凄怆的歌。这时她就向她们招手。她们认出了她;她们说她曾经多么叫她们难过。这次以后,她们每天晚上都来看她。有一晚,她遥远地看到了多年不曾浮出海面的老祖母和戴着王冠的海王。他们对她伸出手来,但他们不像她的那些姐姐,没有敢游近地面。
  王子一无比一天更爱她。他像爱一个亲热的好孩子那样爱她,但是他从来没有娶她为皇后的思想。然而她必须做他的妻子,否则她就不能得到一个不灭的灵魂,而且会在他结婚的头一个早上就变成海上的泡沫。
  “在所有的人中,你是最爱我的吗?”当他把她抱进怀里吻她前额的时候,小人鱼的眼睛似乎在这样说。
  “是的,你是我最亲爱的人!”王子说,“因为你在一切人中有一颗最善良的心。你对我是最亲爱的,你很像我某次看到过的一个年轻女子,可是我永远再也看不见她了。那时我是坐在一艘船上——这船已经沉了。巨浪把我推到一个神庙旁的岸上。有几个年轻女子在那儿作祈祷。她们最年轻的一位在岸旁发现了我,因此救了我的生命。我只看到过她两次:她是我在这世界上能够爱的唯一的人,但是你很像她,你几乎代替了她留在我的灵魂中的印象。她是属于这个神庙的,因此我的幸运特别把你送给我。让我们永远不要分离吧!”
  “啊,他却不知道我救了他的生命!”小人鱼想。“我把他从海里托出来,送到神庙所在的一个树林里。我坐在泡沫后面,窥望是不是有人会来。我看到那个美丽的姑娘——他爱她胜过于爱我。”这时小人鱼深深地叹了一口气——她哭不出声来。“那个姑娘是属于那个神庙的——他曾说过。她永不会走向这个人间的世界里来——他们永不会见面了。我是跟他在一起,每天看到他的。我要照看他,热爱他,对他献出我的生命!”
  现在大家在传说王子快要结婚了,她的妻子就是邻国国王的一个女儿。他为这事特别装备好了一艘美丽的船。王子在表面上说是要到邻近王国里去观光,事实上他是为了要去看邻国君主的女儿。他将带着一大批随员同去。小人鱼摇了摇头,微笑了一下。她比任何人都能猜透王子的心事。
  “我得去旅行一下!”他对她说过,“我得去看一位美丽的公主,这是我父母的命令,但是他们不能强迫我把她作为未婚妻带回家来!我不会爱她的。你很像神庙里的那个美丽的姑娘,而她却不像。如果我要选择新嫁娘的话,那未我就要先选你——我亲爱的、有一双能讲话的眼睛的哑巴孤女。”
  于是他吻了她鲜红的嘴唇,摸抚着她的长头发、把他的头贴到她的心上,弄得她的这颗心又梦想起人间的幸福和一个不灭的灵魂来。
  “你不害怕海吗,我的哑巴孤儿?”他问。这时他们正站在那艘华丽的船上,它正向邻近的王国开去。他和她谈论着风暴和平静的海,生活在海里的奇奇怪怪的鱼,和潜水夫在海底所能看到的东西。对于这类的故事,她只是微微地一笑,因为关于海底的事儿她比谁都知道得清楚。
  在月光照着的夜里,大家都睡了,只有掌舵人立在舵旁。这时她就坐在船边上,凝望着下面清亮的海水,她似乎看到了她父亲的王宫。她的老祖母头上戴着银子做的皇冠,正高高地站在王宫顶上;她透过激流朝这条船的龙骨了望。不一会,他的姐姐们都浮到水面上来了,她们悲哀地望着她,苦痛地扭著她们白净的手。她向她们招手,微笑,同时很想告诉她们,说她现在一切都很美好和幸福。不过这时船上的一个侍者忽然向她这边走来。她的姐姐们马上就沉到水里,侍者以为自己所看到的那些白色的东西,不过只是些海上的泡沫。
  第二天早晨,船开进邻国壮丽皇城的港口。所有教堂的钟都响起来了,号笛从许多高楼上吹来,兵士们拿着飘扬的旗子和明晃的刺刀在敬礼。每天都有一个宴会。舞会和晚会在轮流举行着,可是公主还没有出现。人们说她在一个遥远的神庙里受教育,学习皇家的一切美德。最后她终于到来了。
  小人鱼迫切地想要看看她的美貌。她不得不承认她的美了,她从来没有看见过比这更美的形体。她的皮肤是那么细嫩,洁白;在她黑长的睫毛后面是一对微笑的、忠诚的、深蓝色的眼珠。
  “就是你!”王子说,“当我像一具死尸躺在岸上的时候,救活我的就是你!”于是他把这位羞答答的新嫁娘紧紧地抱在自己的怀里。“啊,我太幸福了!”他对小人鱼说,“我从来不敢希望的最好的东西,现在终于成为事实了。你会为我的幸福而高兴吧,因为你是一切人中最喜欢我的人!”
  小人鱼把他的手吻了一下。她觉得她的心在碎裂。他举行婚礼后的头一个早晨就会带给她灭亡,就会使她变成海上的泡沫。
  教堂的钟都响起来了,传令人骑着马在街上宣布订婚的喜讯。每一个祭台上,芬芳的油脂在贵重的油灯里燃烧。祭司们挥着香炉,新郎和新娘互相挽着手来接受主教的祝福。小人鱼这时穿着丝绸,戴着金饰,托着新嫁娘的披纱,可是她的耳朵听不见这欢乐的音乐,她的眼睛看不见这神圣的仪式。她想起了她要灭亡的早晨,和她在这世界已经失去了的一切东西。
  在同一天晚上,新郎和新娘来到船上。礼炮响起来了,旗帜在飘扬着。一个金色和紫色的皇家帐篷在船中央架起来了,里面陈设得有最美丽的垫子。在这儿,这对美丽的新婚夫妇将度过他们这清凉和寂静的夜晚。
  风儿在鼓着船帆。船在这清亮的海上,轻柔地航行着,没有很大的波动。
  当暮色渐渐垂下来的时候,彩色的灯光就亮起来了,水手们愉快地在甲板上跳起舞来。小人鱼不禁想起她第一次浮到海面上来的情景,想起她那时看到的同样华丽和欢乐的场面。她于是旋舞起来,飞翔着,正如一只被追逐的燕子在飞翔着一样。大家都在喝采,称赞她,她从来没有跳得这么美丽。快利的刀子似乎在砍着她的细嫩的脚,但是她并不感觉到痛,因为她的心比这还要痛。
  她知道这是她看到他的最后一晚——为了他,她离开了她的族人和家庭,她交出了她美丽的声音,她每天忍受着没有止境的苦痛,然而他却一点儿也不知道。这是她能和他在一起呼吸同样空气的最后一晚,这是她能看到深沉的海和布满了星星的天空的最后一晚。同时一个没有思想和梦境的永恒的夜在等待着她——没有灵魂、而且也得不到一个灵魂的她。一直到半夜过后,船上的一切还是欢乐和愉快的。她笑着,舞着,但是她心中怀着死的思想。王子吻着自己的美丽的新娘:新娘抚弄着他的乌亮的头发。他们手搀着手到那华丽的帐篷里去休息。
  船上现在是很安静的了。只有舵手站在舵旁。小人鱼把她洁白的手臂倚在舷墙上,向东方凝望,等待着晨曦的出现——她知道,头一道太阳光就会叫她灭亡,她看到她的姐姐们从波涛中涌现出来了。她们是像她自己一样地苍白。她们美丽的长头发已经不在风中飘荡了——因为它已经被剪掉了。
  “我们已经把头发交给了那个巫婆,希望她能帮助你,使你今后不至于灭亡。她给了我们一把刀子。拿去吧,你看,它是多么快!在太阳没有出来以前,你得把它插进那个王子的心里去。当他的热血流到你脚上上时,你的双脚将会又联到一起,成为一条鱼尾,那么你就可以恢复人鱼的原形,你就可以回到我们这儿的水里来;这样,在你没有变成无生命的咸水泡沫以前,你仍旧可以活过你三百年的岁月。快动手!在太阳没有出来以前,不是他死,就是你死了!我们的老祖母悲恸得连她的白发都落光了,正如我们的头发在巫婆的剪刀下落掉一样。刺死那个王子,赶快回来吧!快动手呀!你没有看到天上的红光吗,几分钟以后,太阳就出来了,那时你就必然灭亡!”
  她们发出一个奇怪的、深沉的叹息声,于是她们便沉入浪祷里去了。
  小人鱼把那帐篷上紫色的帘子掀开,看到那位美丽的新娘把头枕在王子的怀里睡着了。她弯下腰,在王子清秀的眉毛上亲了一吻,于是他向天空凝视——朝霞渐渐地变得更亮了。她向尖刀看了一跟,接着又把眼睛掉向这个王子;他正在梦中喃喃地念着他的新嫁娘的名字。他思想中只有她存在。刀子在小人鱼的手里发抖。但是正在这时候,她把这刀子远远地向浪花里扔去。万子沉下的地方,浪花就发出一道红光,好像有许多血滴溅出了水面。她再一次把她迷糊的视线投向这王子,然后她就从船上跳到海里,她觉得她的身躯在融化成为泡沫。
  现在太阳从海里升起来了。阳光柔和地、温暖地照在冰冷的泡沫上。因为小人鱼并没有感到灭亡。她看到光明的太阳,同时在她上面飞着无数透明的、美丽的生物。透过它们,她可以看到船上的白帆和天空的彩云。它们的声音是和谐的音乐。可是那么虚无缥缈,人类的耳朵简直没有办法听见,正如地上的眼睛不能看见它们一样。它们没有翅膀,只是凭它们轻飘的形体在空中浮动。小人鱼觉得自己也获得了它们这样的形体,渐渐地从泡沫中升起来。
  “我将向谁走去呢?”她问。她的声音跟这些其他的生物一样,显得虚无缥缈,人世间的任何音乐部不能和它相比。
  “到天空的女儿那儿去呀!”别的声音回答说。“人鱼是没有不灭的灵魂的,而且永远也不会有这样的灵魂,除非她获得了一个凡人的爱情。她的永恒的存在要依靠外来的力量。天空的女儿也没有永恒的灵魂,不过她们可以通过善良的行为而创造出一个灵魂。我们飞向炎热的国度里去,那儿散布着病疫的空气在伤害着人民,我们可以吹起清凉的风,可以把花香在空气中传播,我们可以散布健康和愉快的精神。三百年以后,当我们尽力做完了我们可能做的一切善行以后,我们就可以获得一个不灭的灵魂,就可以分享人类一切永恒的幸福了。你,可怜的个人鱼,像我们一样,曾经全心全意地为那个目标而奋斗。你忍受过痛苦;你坚持下去了;你已经超升到精灵的世界里来了。通过你的善良的工作,在三百年以后,你就可以为你自己创造出一个不灭的灵魂。”
  小人鱼向上帝的太阳举起了她光亮的手臂,她第一次感到要流出眼泪。
  在那条船上,人声和活动又开始了。她看到王子和他美丽的新娘在寻找她。他们悲悼地望着那翻腾的泡沫,好像他们知道她已经跳到浪涛里去了似的。在冥冥中她吻着这位新嫁娘的前额,她对王子微笑。于是她就跟其他的空气中的孩子们一道,骑上玫瑰色的云块,升人天空里去了。
  “这样,三百年以后,我们就可以升入天国!”
  “我们也许还不须等那么久!”一个声音低语着。“我们无形无影地飞进人类的住屋里去,那里面生活着一些孩子。每一天如果我们找到一个好孩子,如果他给他父母带来快乐、值得他父母爱他的话,上帝就可以缩短我们考验的时间。当我们飞过屋子的时候,孩子是不会知道的。当我们幸福地对着他笑的时候,我们就可以在这三百年中减去一年;但当我们看到一个顽皮和恶劣的孩子、而不得不伤心地哭出来的时候,那未每一颗眼泪就使我们考验的日子多加一天。”



THE LITTLE MERMAID



FAR out in the ocean, where the water is as blue as the
prettiest cornflower, and as clear as crystal, it is very,
very deep; so deep, indeed, that no cable could fathom it:
many church steeples, piled one upon another, would not reach
from the ground beneath to the surface of the water above.
There dwell the Sea King and his subjects. We must not imagine
that there is nothing at the bottom of the sea but bare yellow
sand. No, indeed; the most singular flowers and plants grow
there; the leaves and stems of which are so pliant, that the
slightest agitation of the water causes them to stir as if
they had life. Fishes, both large and small, glide between the
branches, as birds fly among the trees here upon land. In the
deepest spot of all, stands the castle of the Sea King. Its
walls are built of coral, and the long, gothic windows are of
the clearest amber. The roof is formed of shells, that open
and close as the water flows over them. Their appearance is
very beautiful, for in each lies a glittering pearl, which
would be fit for the diadem of a queen.



The Sea King had been a widower for many years, and his
aged mother kept house for him. She was a very wise woman, and
exceedingly proud of her high birth; on that account she wore
twelve oysters on her tail; while others, also of high rank,
were only allowed to wear six. She was, however, deserving of
very great praise, especially for her care of the little
sea-princesses, her grand-daughters. They were six beautiful
children; but the youngest was the prettiest of them all; her
skin was as clear and delicate as a rose-leaf, and her eyes as
blue as the deepest sea; but, like all the others, she had no
feet, and her body ended in a fish's tail. All day long they
played in the great halls of the castle, or among the living
flowers that grew out of the walls. The large amber windows
were open, and the fish swam in, just as the swallows fly into
our houses when we open the windows, excepting that the fishes
swam up to the princesses, ate out of their hands, and allowed
themselves to be stroked. Outside the castle there was a
beautiful garden, in which grew bright red and dark blue
flowers, and blossoms like flames of fire; the fruit glittered
like gold, and the leaves and stems waved to and fro
continually. The earth itself was the finest sand, but blue as
the flame of burning sulphur. Over everything lay a peculiar
blue radiance, as if it were surrounded by the air from above,
through which the blue sky shone, instead of the dark depths
of the sea. In calm weather the sun could be seen, looking
like a purple flower, with the light streaming from the calyx.
Each of the young princesses had a little plot of ground in
the garden, where she might dig and plant as she pleased. One
arranged her flower-bed into the form of a whale; another
thought it better to make hers like the figure of a little
mermaid; but that of the youngest was round like the sun, and
contained flowers as red as his rays at sunset. She was a
strange child, quiet and thoughtful; and while her sisters
would be delighted with the wonderful things which they
obtained from the wrecks of vessels, she cared for nothing but
her pretty red flowers, like the sun, excepting a beautiful
marble statue. It was the representation of a handsome boy,
carved out of pure white stone, which had fallen to the bottom
of the sea from a wreck. She planted by the statue a
rose-colored weeping willow. It grew splendidly, and very soon
hung its fresh branches over the statue, almost down to the
blue sands. The shadow had a violet tint, and waved to and fro
like the branches; it seemed as if the crown of the tree and
the root were at play, and trying to kiss each other. Nothing
gave her so much pleasure as to hear about the world above the
sea. She made her old grandmother tell her all she knew of the
ships and of the towns, the people and the animals. To her it
seemed most wonderful and beautiful to hear that the flowers
of the land should have fragrance, and not those below the
sea; that the trees of the forest should be green; and that
the fishes among the trees could sing so sweetly, that it was
quite a pleasure to hear them. Her grandmother called the
little birds fishes, or she would not have understood her; for
she had never seen birds.



"When you have reached your fifteenth year," said the
grand-mother, "you will have permission to rise up out of the
sea, to sit on the rocks in the moonlight, while the great
ships are sailing by; and then you will see both forests and
towns."



In the following year, one of the sisters would be
fifteen: but as each was a year younger than the other, the
youngest would have to wait five years before her turn came to
rise up from the bottom of the ocean, and see the earth as we
do. However, each promised to tell the others what she saw on
her first visit, and what she thought the most beautiful; for
their grandmother could not tell them enough; there were so
many things on which they wanted information. None of them
longed so much for her turn to come as the youngest, she who
had the longest time to wait, and who was so quiet and
thoughtful. Many nights she stood by the open window, looking
up through the dark blue water, and watching the fish as they
splashed about with their fins and tails. She could see the
moon and stars shining faintly; but through the water they
looked larger than they do to our eyes. When something like a
black cloud passed between her and them, she knew that it was
either a whale swimming over her head, or a ship full of human
beings, who never imagined that a pretty little mermaid was
standing beneath them, holding out her white hands towards the
keel of their ship.



As soon as the eldest was fifteen, she was allowed to rise
to the surface of the ocean. When she came back, she had
hundreds of things to talk about; but the most beautiful, she
said, was to lie in the moonlight, on a sandbank, in the quiet
sea, near the coast, and to gaze on a large town nearby, where
the lights were twinkling like hundreds of stars; to listen to
the sounds of the music, the noise of carriages, and the
voices of human beings, and then to hear the merry bells peal
out from the church steeples; and because she could not go
near to all those wonderful things, she longed for them more
than ever. Oh, did not the youngest sister listen eagerly to
all these descriptions? and afterwards, when she stood at the
open window looking up through the dark blue water, she
thought of the great city, with all its bustle and noise, and
even fancied she could hear the sound of the church bells,
down in the depths of the sea.



In another year the second sister received permission to
rise to the surface of the water, and to swim about where she
pleased. She rose just as the sun was setting, and this, she
said, was the most beautiful sight of all. The whole sky
looked like gold, while violet and rose-colored clouds, which
she could not describe, floated over her; and, still more
rapidly than the clouds, flew a large flock of wild swans
towards the setting sun, looking like a long white veil across
the sea. She also swam towards the sun; but it sunk into the
waves, and the rosy tints faded from the clouds and from the
sea.



The third sister's turn followed; she was the boldest of
them all, and she swam up a broad river that emptied itself
into the sea. On the banks she saw green hills covered with
beautiful vines; palaces and castles peeped out from amid the
proud trees of the forest; she heard the birds singing, and
the rays of the sun were so powerful that she was obliged
often to dive down under the water to cool her burning face.
In a narrow creek she found a whole troop of little human
children, quite naked, and sporting about in the water; she
wanted to play with them, but they fled in a great fright; and
then a little black animal came to the water; it was a dog,
but she did not know that, for she had never before seen one.
This animal barked at her so terribly that she became
frightened, and rushed back to the open sea. But she said she
should never forget the beautiful forest, the green hills, and
the pretty little children who could swim in the water,
although they had not fish's tails.



The fourth sister was more timid; she remained in the
midst of the sea, but she said it was quite as beautiful there
as nearer the land. She could see for so many miles around
her, and the sky above looked like a bell of glass. She had
seen the ships, but at such a great distance that they looked
like sea-gulls. The dolphins sported in the waves, and the
great whales spouted water from their nostrils till it seemed
as if a hundred fountains were playing in every direction.



The fifth sister's birthday occurred in the winter; so
when her turn came, she saw what the others had not seen the
first time they went up. The sea looked quite green, and large
icebergs were floating about, each like a pearl, she said, but
larger and loftier than the churches built by men. They were
of the most singular shapes, and glittered like diamonds. She
had seated herself upon one of the largest, and let the wind
play with her long hair, and she remarked that all the ships
sailed by rapidly, and steered as far away as they could from
the iceberg, as if they were afraid of it. Towards evening, as
the sun went down, dark clouds covered the sky, the thunder
rolled and the lightning flashed, and the red light glowed on
the icebergs as they rocked and tossed on the heaving sea. On
all the ships the sails were reefed with fear and trembling,
while she sat calmly on the floating iceberg, watching the
blue lightning, as it darted its forked flashes into the sea.



When first the sisters had permission to rise to the
surface, they were each delighted with the new and beautiful
sights they saw; but now, as grown-up girls, they could go
when they pleased, and they had become indifferent about it.
They wished themselves back again in the water, and after a
month had passed they said it was much more beautiful down
below, and pleasanter to be at home. Yet often, in the evening
hours, the five sisters would twine their arms round each
other, and rise to the surface, in a row. They had more
beautiful voices than any human being could have; and before
the approach of a storm, and when they expected a ship would
be lost, they swam before the vessel, and sang sweetly of the
delights to be found in the depths of the sea, and begging the
sailors not to fear if they sank to the bottom. But the
sailors could not understand the song, they took it for the
howling of the storm. And these things were never to be
beautiful for them; for if the ship sank, the men were
drowned, and their dead bodies alone reached the palace of the
Sea King.



When the sisters rose, arm-in-arm, through the water in
this way, their youngest sister would stand quite alone,
looking after them, ready to cry, only that the mermaids have
no tears, and therefore they suffer more. "Oh, were I but
fifteen years old," said she: "I know that I shall love the
world up there, and all the people who live in it."



At last she reached her fifteenth year. "Well, now, you
are grown up," said the old dowager, her grandmother; "so you
must let me adorn you like your other sisters;" and she placed
a wreath of white lilies in her hair, and every flower leaf
was half a pearl. Then the old lady ordered eight great
oysters to attach themselves to the tail of the princess to
show her high rank.



"But they hurt me so," said the little mermaid.



"Pride must suffer pain," replied the old lady. Oh, how
gladly she would have shaken off all this grandeur, and laid
aside the heavy wreath! The red flowers in her own garden
would have suited her much better, but she could not help
herself: so she said, "Farewell," and rose as lightly as a
bubble to the surface of the water. The sun had just set as
she raised her head above the waves; but the clouds were
tinted with crimson and gold, and through the glimmering
twilight beamed the evening star in all its beauty. The sea
was calm, and the air mild and fresh. A large ship, with three
masts, lay becalmed on the water, with only one sail set; for
not a breeze stiffed, and the sailors sat idle on deck or
amongst the rigging. There was music and song on board; and,
as darkness came on, a hundred colored lanterns were lighted,
as if the flags of all nations waved in the air. The little
mermaid swam close to the cabin windows; and now and then, as
the waves lifted her up, she could look in through clear glass
window-panes, and see a number of well-dressed people within.
Among them was a young prince, the most beautiful of all, with
large black eyes; he was sixteen years of age, and his
birthday was being kept with much rejoicing. The sailors were
dancing on deck, but when the prince came out of the cabin,
more than a hundred rockets rose in the air, making it as
bright as day. The little mermaid was so startled that she
dived under water; and when she again stretched out her head,
it appeared as if all the stars of heaven were falling around
her, she had never seen such fireworks before. Great suns
spurted fire about, splendid fireflies flew into the blue air,
and everything was reflected in the clear, calm sea beneath.
The ship itself was so brightly illuminated that all the
people, and even the smallest rope, could be distinctly and
plainly seen. And how handsome the young prince looked, as he
pressed the hands of all present and smiled at them, while the
music resounded through the clear night air.



It was very late; yet the little mermaid could not take
her eyes from the ship, or from the beautiful prince. The
colored lanterns had been extinguished, no more rockets rose
in the air, and the cannon had ceased firing; but the sea
became restless, and a moaning, grumbling sound could be heard
beneath the waves: still the little mermaid remained by the
cabin window, rocking up and down on the water, which enabled
her to look in. After a while, the sails were quickly
unfurled, and the noble ship continued her passage; but soon
the waves rose higher, heavy clouds darkened the sky, and
lightning appeared in the distance. A dreadful storm was
approaching; once more the sails were reefed, and the great
ship pursued her flying course over the raging sea. The waves
rose mountains high, as if they would have overtopped the
mast; but the ship dived like a swan between them, and then
rose again on their lofty, foaming crests. To the little
mermaid this appeared pleasant sport; not so to the sailors.
At length the ship groaned and creaked; the thick planks gave
way under the lashing of the sea as it broke over the deck;
the mainmast snapped asunder like a reed; the ship lay over on
her side; and the water rushed in. The little mermaid now
perceived that the crew were in danger; even she herself was
obliged to be careful to avoid the beams and planks of the
wreck which lay scattered on the water. At one moment it was
so pitch dark that she could not see a single object, but a
flash of lightning revealed the whole scene; she could see
every one who had been on board excepting the prince; when the
ship parted, she had seen him sink into the deep waves, and
she was glad, for she thought he would now be with her; and
then she remembered that human beings could not live in the
water, so that when he got down to her father's palace he
would be quite dead. But he must not die. So she swam about
among the beams and planks which strewed the surface of the
sea, forgetting that they could crush her to pieces. Then she
dived deeply under the dark waters, rising and falling with
the waves, till at length she managed to reach the young
prince, who was fast losing the power of swimming in that
stormy sea. His limbs were failing him, his beautiful eyes
were closed, and he would have died had not the little mermaid
come to his assistance. She held his head above the water, and
let the waves drift them where they would.



In the morning the storm had ceased; but of the ship not a
single fragment could be seen. The sun rose up red and glowing
from the water, and its beams brought back the hue of health
to the prince's cheeks; but his eyes remained closed. The
mermaid kissed his high, smooth forehead, and stroked back his
wet hair; he seemed to her like the marble statue in her
little garden, and she kissed him again, and wished that he
might live. Presently they came in sight of land; she saw
lofty blue mountains, on which the white snow rested as if a
flock of swans were lying upon them. Near the coast were
beautiful green forests, and close by stood a large building,
whether a church or a convent she could not tell. Orange and
citron trees grew in the garden, and before the door stood
lofty palms. The sea here formed a little bay, in which the
water was quite still, but very deep; so she swam with the
handsome prince to the beach, which was covered with fine,
white sand, and there she laid him in the warm sunshine,
taking care to raise his head higher than his body. Then bells
sounded in the large white building, and a number of young
girls came into the garden. The little mermaid swam out
farther from the shore and placed herself between some high
rocks that rose out of the water; then she covered her head
and neck with the foam of the sea so that her little face
might not be seen, and watched to see what would become of the
poor prince. She did not wait long before she saw a young girl
approach the spot where he lay. She seemed frightened at
first, but only for a moment; then she fetched a number of
people, and the mermaid saw that the prince came to life
again, and smiled upon those who stood round him. But to her
he sent no smile; he knew not that she had saved him. This
made her very unhappy, and when he was led away into the great
building, she dived down sorrowfully into the water, and
returned to her father's castle. She had always been silent
and thoughtful, and now she was more so than ever. Her sisters
asked her what she had seen during her first visit to the
surface of the water; but she would tell them nothing. Many an
evening and morning did she rise to the place where she had
left the prince. She saw the fruits in the garden ripen till
they were gathered, the snow on the tops of the mountains melt
away; but she never saw the prince, and therefore she returned
home, always more sorrowful than before. It was her only
comfort to sit in her own little garden, and fling her arm
round the beautiful marble statue which was like the prince;
but she gave up tending her flowers, and they grew in wild
confusion over the paths, twining their long leaves and stems
round the branches of the trees, so that the whole place
became dark and gloomy. At length she could bear it no longer,
and told one of her sisters all about it. Then the others
heard the secret, and very soon it became known to two
mermaids whose intimate friend happened to know who the prince
was. She had also seen the festival on board ship, and she
told them where the prince came from, and where his palace
stood.



"Come, little sister," said the other princesses; then
they entwined their arms and rose up in a long row to the
surface of the water, close by the spot where they knew the
prince's palace stood. It was built of bright yellow shining
stone, with long flights of marble steps, one of which reached
quite down to the sea. Splendid gilded cupolas rose over the
roof, and between the pillars that surrounded the whole
building stood life-like statues of marble. Through the clear
crystal of the lofty windows could be seen noble rooms, with
costly silk curtains and hangings of tapestry; while the walls
were covered with beautiful paintings which were a pleasure to
look at. In the centre of the largest saloon a fountain threw
its sparkling jets high up into the glass cupola of the
ceiling, through which the sun shone down upon the water and
upon the beautiful plants growing round the basin of the
fountain. Now that she knew where he lived, she spent many an
evening and many a night on the water near the palace. She
would swim much nearer the shore than any of the others
ventured to do; indeed once she went quite up the narrow
channel under the marble balcony, which threw a broad shadow
on the water. Here she would sit and watch the young prince,
who thought himself quite alone in the bright moonlight. She
saw him many times of an evening sailing in a pleasant boat,
with music playing and flags waving. She peeped out from among
the green rushes, and if the wind caught her long
silvery-white veil, those who saw it believed it to be a swan,
spreading out its wings. On many a night, too, when the
fishermen, with their torches, were out at sea, she heard them
relate so many good things about the doings of the young
prince, that she was glad she had saved his life when he had
been tossed about half-dead on the waves. And she remembered
that his head had rested on her bosom, and how heartily she
had kissed him; but he knew nothing of all this, and could not
even dream of her. She grew more and more fond of human
beings, and wished more and more to be able to wander about
with those whose world seemed to be so much larger than her
own. They could fly over the sea in ships, and mount the high
hills which were far above the clouds; and the lands they
possessed, their woods and their fields, stretched far away
beyond the reach of her sight. There was so much that she
wished to know, and her sisters were unable to answer all her
questions. Then she applied to her old grandmother, who knew
all about the upper world, which she very rightly called the
lands above the sea.



"If human beings are not drowned," asked the little
mermaid, "can they live forever? do they never die as we do
here in the sea?"



"Yes," replied the old lady, "they must also die, and
their term of life is even shorter than ours. We sometimes
live to three hundred years, but when we cease to exist here
we only become the foam on the surface of the water, and we
have not even a grave down here of those we love. We have not
immortal souls, we shall never live again; but, like the green
sea-weed, when once it has been cut off, we can never flourish
more. Human beings, on the contrary, have a soul which lives
forever, lives after the body has been turned to dust. It
rises up through the clear, pure air beyond the glittering
stars. As we rise out of the water, and behold all the land of
the earth, so do they rise to unknown and glorious regions
which we shall never see."



"Why have not we an immortal soul?" asked the little
mermaid mournfully; "I would give gladly all the hundreds of
years that I have to live, to be a human being only for one
day, and to have the hope of knowing the happiness of that
glorious world above the stars."



"You must not think of that," said the old woman; "we feel
ourselves to be much happier and much better off than human
beings."



"So I shall die," said the little mermaid, "and as the
foam of the sea I shall be driven about never again to hear
the music of the waves, or to see the pretty flowers nor the
red sun. Is there anything I can do to win an immortal soul?"



"No," said the old woman, "unless a man were to love you
so much that you were more to him than his father or mother;
and if all his thoughts and all his love were fixed upon you,
and the priest placed his right hand in yours, and he promised
to be true to you here and hereafter, then his soul would
glide into your body and you would obtain a share in the
future happiness of mankind. He would give a soul to you and
retain his own as well; but this can never happen. Your fish's
tail, which amongst us is considered so beautiful, is thought
on earth to be quite ugly; they do not know any better, and
they think it necessary to have two stout props, which they
call legs, in order to be handsome."



Then the little mermaid sighed, and looked sorrowfully at
her fish's tail. "Let us be happy," said the old lady, "and
dart and spring about during the three hundred years that we
have to live, which is really quite long enough; after that we
can rest ourselves all the better. This evening we are going
to have a court ball."



It is one of those splendid sights which we can never see
on earth. The walls and the ceiling of the large ball-room
were of thick, but transparent crystal. May hundreds of
colossal shells, some of a deep red, others of a grass green,
stood on each side in rows, with blue fire in them, which
lighted up the whole saloon, and shone through the walls, so
that the sea was also illuminated. Innumerable fishes, great
and small, swam past the crystal walls; on some of them the
scales glowed with a purple brilliancy, and on others they
shone like silver and gold. Through the halls flowed a broad
stream, and in it danced the mermen and the mermaids to the
music of their own sweet singing. No one on earth has such a
lovely voice as theirs. The little mermaid sang more sweetly
than them all. The whole court applauded her with hands and
tails; and for a moment her heart felt quite gay, for she knew
she had the loveliest voice of any on earth or in the sea. But
she soon thought again of the world above her, for she could
not forget the charming prince, nor her sorrow that she had
not an immortal soul like his; therefore she crept away
silently out of her father's palace, and while everything
within was gladness and song, she sat in her own little garden
sorrowful and alone. Then she heard the bugle sounding through
the water, and thought- "He is certainly sailing above, he on
whom my wishes depend, and in whose hands I should like to
place the happiness of my life. I will venture all for him,
and to win an immortal soul, while my sisters are dancing in
my father's palace, I will go to the sea witch, of whom I have
always been so much afraid, but she can give me counsel and
help."



And then the little mermaid went out from her garden, and
took the road to the foaming whirlpools, behind which the
sorceress lived. She had never been that way before: neither
flowers nor grass grew there; nothing but bare, gray, sandy
ground stretched out to the whirlpool, where the water, like
foaming mill-wheels, whirled round everything that it seized,
and cast it into the fathomless deep. Through the midst of
these crushing whirlpools the little mermaid was obliged to
pass, to reach the dominions of the sea witch; and also for a
long distance the only road lay right across a quantity of
warm, bubbling mire, called by the witch her turfmoor. Beyond
this stood her house, in the centre of a strange forest, in
which all the trees and flowers were polypi, half animals and
half plants; they looked like serpents with a hundred heads
growing out of the ground. The branches were long slimy arms,
with fingers like flexible worms, moving limb after limb from
the root to the top. All that could be reached in the sea they
seized upon, and held fast, so that it never escaped from
their clutches. The little mermaid was so alarmed at what she
saw, that she stood still, and her heart beat with fear, and
she was very nearly turning back; but she thought of the
prince, and of the human soul for which she longed, and her
courage returned. She fastened her long flowing hair round her
head, so that the polypi might not seize hold of it. She laid
her hands together across her bosom, and then she darted
forward as a fish shoots through the water, between the supple
arms and fingers of the ugly polypi, which were stretched out
on each side of her. She saw that each held in its grasp
something it had seized with its numerous little arms, as if
they were iron bands. The white skeletons of human beings who
had perished at sea, and had sunk down into the deep waters,
skeletons of land animals, oars, rudders, and chests of ships
were lying tightly grasped by their clinging arms; even a
little mermaid, whom they had caught and strangled; and this
seemed the most shocking of all to the little princess.



She now came to a space of marshy ground in the wood,
where large, fat water-snakes were rolling in the mire, and
showing their ugly, drab-colored bodies. In the midst of this
spot stood a house, built with the bones of shipwrecked human
beings. There sat the sea witch, allowing a toad to eat from
her mouth, just as people sometimes feed a canary with a piece
of sugar. She called the ugly water-snakes her little
chickens, and allowed them to crawl all over her bosom.



"I know what you want," said the sea witch; "it is very
stupid of you, but you shall have your way, and it will bring
you to sorrow, my pretty princess. You want to get rid of your
fish's tail, and to have two supports instead of it, like
human beings on earth, so that the young prince may fall in
love with you, and that you may have an immortal soul." And
then the witch laughed so loud and disgustingly, that the toad
and the snakes fell to the ground, and lay there wriggling
about. "You are but just in time," said the witch; "for after
sunrise to-morrow I should not be able to help you till the
end of another year. I will prepare a draught for you, with
which you must swim to land tomorrow before sunrise, and sit
down on the shore and drink it. Your tail will then disappear,
and shrink up into what mankind calls legs, and you will feel
great pain, as if a sword were passing through you. But all
who see you will say that you are the prettiest little human
being they ever saw. You will still have the same floating
gracefulness of movement, and no dancer will ever tread so
lightly; but at every step you take it will feel as if you
were treading upon sharp knives, and that the blood must flow.
If you will bear all this, I will help you."



"Yes, I will," said the little princess in a trembling
voice, as she thought of the prince and the immortal soul.



"But think again," said the witch; "for when once your
shape has become like a human being, you can no more be a
mermaid. You will never return through the water to your
sisters, or to your father's palace again; and if you do not
win the love of the prince, so that he is willing to forget
his father and mother for your sake, and to love you with his
whole soul, and allow the priest to join your hands that you
may be man and wife, then you will never have an immortal
soul. The first morning after he marries another your heart
will break, and you will become foam on the crest of the
waves."



"I will do it," said the little mermaid, and she became
pale as death.



"But I must be paid also," said the witch, "and it is not
a trifle that I ask. You have the sweetest voice of any who
dwell here in the depths of the sea, and you believe that you
will be able to charm the prince with it also, but this voice
you must give to me; the best thing you possess will I have
for the price of my draught. My own blood must be mixed with
it, that it may be as sharp as a two-edged sword."



"But if you take away my voice," said the little mermaid,
"what is left for me?"



"Your beautiful form, your graceful walk, and your
expressive eyes; surely with these you can enchain a man's
heart. Well, have you lost your courage? Put out your little
tongue that I may cut it off as my payment; then you shall
have the powerful draught."



"It shall be," said the little mermaid.



Then the witch placed her cauldron on the fire, to prepare
the magic draught.



"Cleanliness is a good thing," said she, scouring the
vessel with snakes, which she had tied together in a large
knot; then she pricked herself in the breast, and let the
black blood drop into it. The steam that rose formed itself
into such horrible shapes that no one could look at them
without fear. Every moment the witch threw something else into
the vessel, and when it began to boil, the sound was like the
weeping of a crocodile. When at last the magic draught was
ready, it looked like the clearest water. "There it is for
you," said the witch. Then she cut off the mermaid's tongue,
so that she became dumb, and would never again speak or sing.
"If the polypi should seize hold of you as you return through
the wood," said the witch, "throw over them a few drops of the
potion, and their fingers will be torn into a thousand
pieces." But the little mermaid had no occasion to do this,
for the polypi sprang back in terror when they caught sight of
the glittering draught, which shone in her hand like a
twinkling star.



So she passed quickly through the wood and the marsh, and
between the rushing whirlpools. She saw that in her father's
palace the torches in the ballroom were extinguished, and all
within asleep; but she did not venture to go in to them, for
now she was dumb and going to leave them forever, she felt as
if her heart would break. She stole into the garden, took a
flower from the flower-beds of each of her sisters, kissed her
hand a thousand times towards the palace, and then rose up
through the dark blue waters. The sun had not risen when she
came in sight of the prince's palace, and approached the
beautiful marble steps, but the moon shone clear and bright.
Then the little mermaid drank the magic draught, and it seemed
as if a two-edged sword went through her delicate body: she
fell into a swoon, and lay like one dead. When the sun arose
and shone over the sea, she recovered, and felt a sharp pain;
but just before her stood the handsome young prince. He fixed
his coal-black eyes upon her so earnestly that she cast down
her own, and then became aware that her fish's tail was gone,
and that she had as pretty a pair of white legs and tiny feet
as any little maiden could have; but she had no clothes, so
she wrapped herself in her long, thick hair. The prince asked
her who she was, and where she came from, and she looked at
him mildly and sorrowfully with her deep blue eyes; but she
could not speak. Every step she took was as the witch had said
it would be, she felt as if treading upon the points of
needles or sharp knives; but she bore it willingly, and
stepped as lightly by the prince's side as a soap-bubble, so
that he and all who saw her wondered at her graceful-swaying
movements. She was very soon arrayed in costly robes of silk
and muslin, and was the most beautiful creature in the palace;
but she was dumb, and could neither speak nor sing.



Beautiful female slaves, dressed in silk and gold, stepped
forward and sang before the prince and his royal parents: one
sang better than all the others, and the prince clapped his
hands and smiled at her. This was great sorrow to the little
mermaid; she knew how much more sweetly she herself could sing
once, and she thought, "Oh if he could only know that! I have
given away my voice forever, to be with him."



The slaves next performed some pretty fairy-like dances,
to the sound of beautiful music. Then the little mermaid
raised her lovely white arms, stood on the tips of her toes,
and glided over the floor, and danced as no one yet had been
able to dance. At each moment her beauty became more revealed,
and her expressive eyes appealed more directly to the heart
than the songs of the slaves. Every one was enchanted,
especially the prince, who called her his little foundling;
and she danced again quite readily, to please him, though each
time her foot touched the floor it seemed as if she trod on
sharp knives."



The prince said she should remain with him always, and she
received permission to sleep at his door, on a velvet cushion.
He had a page's dress made for her, that she might accompany
him on horseback. They rode together through the sweet-scented
woods, where the green boughs touched their shoulders, and the
little birds sang among the fresh leaves. She climbed with the
prince to the tops of high mountains; and although her tender
feet bled so that even her steps were marked, she only
laughed, and followed him till they could see the clouds
beneath them looking like a flock of birds travelling to
distant lands. While at the prince's palace, and when all the
household were asleep, she would go and sit on the broad
marble steps; for it eased her burning feet to bathe them in
the cold sea-water; and then she thought of all those below in
the deep.



Once during the night her sisters came up arm-in-arm,
singing sorrowfully, as they floated on the water. She
beckoned to them, and then they recognized her, and told her
how she had grieved them. After that, they came to the same
place every night; and once she saw in the distance her old
grandmother, who had not been to the surface of the sea for
many years, and the old Sea King, her father, with his crown
on his head. They stretched out their hands towards her, but
they did not venture so near the land as her sisters did.



As the days passed, she loved the prince more fondly, and
he loved her as he would love a little child, but it never
came into his head to make her his wife; yet, unless he
married her, she could not receive an immortal soul; and, on
the morning after his marriage with another, she would
dissolve into the foam of the sea.



"Do you not love me the best of them all?" the eyes of the
little mermaid seemed to say, when he took her in his arms,
and kissed her fair forehead.



"Yes, you are dear to me," said the prince; "for you have
the best heart, and you are the most devoted to me; you are
like a young maiden whom I once saw, but whom I shall never
meet again. I was in a ship that was wrecked, and the waves
cast me ashore near a holy temple, where several young maidens
performed the service. The youngest of them found me on the
shore, and saved my life. I saw her but twice, and she is the
only one in the world whom I could love; but you are like her,
and you have almost driven her image out of my mind. She
belongs to the holy temple, and my good fortune has sent you
to me instead of her; and we will never part."



"Ah, he knows not that it was I who saved his life,"
thought the little mermaid. "I carried him over the sea to the
wood where the temple stands: I sat beneath the foam, and
watched till the human beings came to help him. I saw the
pretty maiden that he loves better than he loves me;" and the
mermaid sighed deeply, but she could not shed tears. "He says
the maiden belongs to the holy temple, therefore she will
never return to the world. They will meet no more: while I am
by his side, and see him every day. I will take care of him,
and love him, and give up my life for his sake."



Very soon it was said that the prince must marry, and that
the beautiful daughter of a neighboring king would be his
wife, for a fine ship was being fitted out. Although the
prince gave out that he merely intended to pay a visit to the
king, it was generally supposed that he really went to see his
daughter. A great company were to go with him. The little
mermaid smiled, and shook her head. She knew the prince's
thoughts better than any of the others.



"I must travel," he had said to her; "I must see this
beautiful princess; my parents desire it; but they will not
oblige me to bring her home as my bride. I cannot love her;
she is not like the beautiful maiden in the temple, whom you
resemble. If I were forced to choose a bride, I would rather
choose you, my dumb foundling, with those expressive eyes."
And then he kissed her rosy mouth, played with her long waving
hair, and laid his head on her heart, while she dreamed of
human happiness and an immortal soul. "You are not afraid of
the sea, my dumb child," said he, as they stood on the deck of
the noble ship which was to carry them to the country of the
neighboring king. And then he told her of storm and of calm,
of strange fishes in the deep beneath them, and of what the
divers had seen there; and she smiled at his descriptions, for
she knew better than any one what wonders were at the bottom
of the sea.



In the moonlight, when all on board were asleep, excepting
the man at the helm, who was steering, she sat on the deck,
gazing down through the clear water. She thought she could
distinguish her father's castle, and upon it her aged
grandmother, with the silver crown on her head, looking
through the rushing tide at the keel of the vessel. Then her
sisters came up on the waves, and gazed at her mournfully,
wringing their white hands. She beckoned to them, and smiled,
and wanted to tell them how happy and well off she was; but
the cabin-boy approached, and when her sisters dived down he
thought it was only the foam of the sea which he saw.



The next morning the ship sailed into the harbor of a
beautiful town belonging to the king whom the prince was going
to visit. The church bells were ringing, and from the high
towers sounded a flourish of trumpets; and soldiers, with
flying colors and glittering bayonets, lined the rocks through
which they passed. Every day was a festival; balls and
entertainments followed one another.



But the princess had not yet appeared. People said that
she was being brought up and educated in a religious house,
where she was learning every royal virtue. At last she came.
Then the little mermaid, who was very anxious to see whether
she was really beautiful, was obliged to acknowledge that she
had never seen a more perfect vision of beauty. Her skin was
delicately fair, and beneath her long dark eye-lashes her
laughing blue eyes shone with truth and purity.



"It was you," said the prince, "who saved my life when I
lay dead on the beach," and he folded his blushing bride in
his arms. "Oh, I am too happy," said he to the little mermaid;
"my fondest hopes are all fulfilled. You will rejoice at my
happiness; for your devotion to me is great and sincere."



The little mermaid kissed his hand, and felt as if her
heart were already broken. His wedding morning would bring
death to her, and she would change into the foam of the sea.
All the church bells rung, and the heralds rode about the town
proclaiming the betrothal. Perfumed oil was burning in costly
silver lamps on every altar. The priests waved the censers,
while the bride and bridegroom joined their hands and received
the blessing of the bishop. The little mermaid, dressed in
silk and gold, held up the bride's train; but her ears heard
nothing of the festive music, and her eyes saw not the holy
ceremony; she thought of the night of death which was coming
to her, and of all she had lost in the world. On the same
evening the bride and bridegroom went on board ship; cannons
were roaring, flags waving, and in the centre of the ship a
costly tent of purple and gold had been erected. It contained
elegant couches, for the reception of the bridal pair during
the night. The ship, with swelling sails and a favorable wind,
glided away smoothly and lightly over the calm sea. When it
grew dark a number of colored lamps were lit, and the sailors
danced merrily on the deck. The little mermaid could not help
thinking of her first rising out of the sea, when she had seen
similar festivities and joys; and she joined in the dance,
poised herself in the air as a swallow when he pursues his
prey, and all present cheered her with wonder. She had never
danced so elegantly before. Her tender feet felt as if cut
with sharp knives, but she cared not for it; a sharper pang
had pierced through her heart. She knew this was the last
evening she should ever see the prince, for whom she had
forsaken her kindred and her home; she had given up her
beautiful voice, and suffered unheard-of pain daily for him,
while he knew nothing of it. This was the last evening that
she would breathe the same air with him, or gaze on the starry
sky and the deep sea; an eternal night, without a thought or a
dream, awaited her: she had no soul and now she could never
win one. All was joy and gayety on board ship till long after
midnight; she laughed and danced with the rest, while the
thoughts of death were in her heart. The prince kissed his
beautiful bride, while she played with his raven hair, till
they went arm-in-arm to rest in the splendid tent. Then all
became still on board the ship; the helmsman, alone awake,
stood at the helm. The little mermaid leaned her white arms on
the edge of the vessel, and looked towards the east for the
first blush of morning, for that first ray of dawn that would
bring her death. She saw her sisters rising out of the flood:
they were as pale as herself; but their long beautiful hair
waved no more in the wind, and had been cut off.



"We have given our hair to the witch," said they, "to
obtain help for you, that you may not die to-night. She has
given us a knife: here it is, see it is very sharp. Before the
sun rises you must plunge it into the heart of the prince;
when the warm blood falls upon your feet they will grow
together again, and form into a fish's tail, and you will be
once more a mermaid, and return to us to live out your three
hundred years before you die and change into the salt sea
foam. Haste, then; he or you must die before sunrise. Our old
grandmother moans so for you, that her white hair is falling
off from sorrow, as ours fell under the witch's scissors. Kill
the prince and come back; hasten: do you not see the first red
streaks in the sky? In a few minutes the sun will rise, and
you must die." And then they sighed deeply and mournfully, and
sank down beneath the waves.



The little mermaid drew back the crimson curtain of the
tent, and beheld the fair bride with her head resting on the
prince's breast. She bent down and kissed his fair brow, then
looked at the sky on which the rosy dawn grew brighter and
brighter; then she glanced at the sharp knife, and again fixed
her eyes on the prince, who whispered the name of his bride in
his dreams. She was in his thoughts, and the knife trembled in
the hand of the little mermaid: then she flung it far away
from her into the waves; the water turned red where it fell,
and the drops that spurted up looked like blood. She cast one
more lingering, half-fainting glance at the prince, and then
threw herself from the ship into the sea, and thought her body
was dissolving into foam. The sun rose above the waves, and
his warm rays fell on the cold foam of the little mermaid, who
did not feel as if she were dying. She saw the bright sun, and
all around her floated hundreds of transparent beautiful
beings; she could see through them the white sails of the
ship, and the red clouds in the sky; their speech was
melodious, but too ethereal to be heard by mortal ears, as
they were also unseen by mortal eyes. The little mermaid
perceived that she had a body like theirs, and that she
continued to rise higher and higher out of the foam. "Where am
I?" asked she, and her voice sounded ethereal, as the voice of
those who were with her; no earthly music could imitate it.



"Among the daughters of the air," answered one of them. "A
mermaid has not an immortal soul, nor can she obtain one
unless she wins the love of a human being. On the power of
another hangs her eternal destiny. But the daughters of the
air, although they do not possess an immortal soul, can, by
their good deeds, procure one for themselves. We fly to warm
countries, and cool the sultry air that destroys mankind with
the pestilence. We carry the perfume of the flowers to spread
health and restoration. After we have striven for three
hundred years to all the good in our power, we receive an
immortal soul and take part in the happiness of mankind. You, poor little mermaid, have tried with your whole heart to do as we are doing; you have suffered and endured and raised yourself to the spirit-world by your good deeds; and now, by striving for three hundred years in the same way, you may obtain an immortal soul."



The little mermaid lifted her glorified eyes towards the
sun, and felt them, for the first time, filling with tears. On
the ship, in which she had left the prince, there were life
and noise; she saw him and his beautiful bride searching for
her; sorrowfully they gazed at the pearly foam, as if they
knew she had thrown herself into the waves. Unseen she kissed
the forehead of her bride, and fanned the prince, and then
mounted with the other children of the air to a rosy cloud
that floated through the aether.



"After three hundred years, thus shall we float into the
kingdom of heaven," said she. "And we may even get there
sooner," whispered one of her companions. "Unseen we can enter
the houses of men, where there are children, and for every day
on which we find a good child, who is the joy of his parents
and deserves their love, our time of probation is shortened.
The child does not know, when we fly through the room, that we
smile with joy at his good conduct, for we can count one year
less of our three hundred years. But when we see a naughty or
a wicked child, we shed tears of sorrow, and for every tear a
day is added to our time of trial!"













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