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The Flax

This is the version of The Flax that I have used in several of my art pieces. This exact version, taken from William's Choice Literature, Vol. 1, doesn't exist in text form anywhere else on the internet as of the time of this publishing. While there are a lot of great translations out there, I like this one for being fairly true to the original Danish, and keeping the "song" intact. Enjoy! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The Flax was in blossom; it had pretty little flowers as delicate as a moth’s wing. The sun shone on it, and the rain clouds moistened it. This was just as good for the Flax as it is for little children to be washed, and afterward be kissed by their mothers.

“People say that I look uncommonly well,” said the Flax; “that I am fine and long, and will make an excellent piece of linen. How happy I am! I am certainly the happiest of beings. How well off I am! I surely may come to something. How good the rain tastes, and how it refreshes me! How the sunshine gladdens one! I’m the happiest of beings.”

“Yes, yes!” said the Hedge Stake. “You don’t know the world, but we do, for we have knots in us;” and then it creaked out mournfully:



The song is done.”

“No, it is not done, said the Flax. “To-morrow the sun will shine, or the rain will refresh me. I feel that I am growing. I feel that I am in blossom. I am the happiest of beings.”

But one day people came and pulled the Flax up by the root. That hurt; it was laid in water as if they meant to drown it, and then it was put on the fire as if they were going to roast it. It was fearful!

“One can’t always have good times,” said the Flax. “One must have experience, and so get to know something.”

But bad times had certainly come. The Flax was moistened, and roasted, and broken, and hackled. The Flax did not even know why this was being done. It was put on the spinning wheel, and it when whirr! whirr! whirr! till it could not possibly collect its thoughts.

“I have been uncommonly happy,” said the Flax, in its pain. “One must be contented with the good one has had. Contented! contented!” and it continued to say that when it was put into the loom and until it became a beautiful piece of linen.

“This is quite remarkable! I never should have believed it! Have favorable fortune is to me! The Hedge Stake said: ‘The song is done.’ The song is not done by any means. It is just beginning in earnest. It is quite remarkable. If I have suffered, I have been made into something. No one is so happy as I. How strong and fine I am! How white and how long! This is something different from being a mere plant, even if one does bear flowers. Now I am attended to. The maid turns me over every morning, and I get a shower—bath every evening. Even the clergyman’s wife speaks about me, and says I am the best piece of linen in the whole parish. I cannot be happier.”

Now the linen was taken into the house and cut, and torn, and pricked with needles. This was not pleasant; but twelve pieces of linen were made of it, a whole dozen.

“Just look! Now something has really been made of me. That was my destiny. That is a real blessing. Now I shall be of some use in the world, and that is right; that is a true pleasure. We have been made into twelve things, but we are all one just the same.”

Years rolled on, and now they would hold together no longer.

“It must be over one day,” said each piece. “I would have been glad to hold together a little longer, but one must not expect impossibilities.”

Now they were torn into pieces and thought it must surely be all over. They were hacked into little pieces, and softened, and boiled; they did not know what was being done to them; soon they became beautiful white Paper.

“Now, that is a surprise, a glorious surprise!” said the Paper. “Now I am finer than before. I shall be written upon, and that is remarkable good fortune.”

Beautiful stories were written upon the paper, and people heard them and were made better. It was sent to the printer, and everything that was written upon it was set up in type and printed, and many hundreds of books made.

“Yes, this really is the wisest way,” thought the Written Paper. “I really did not think of that. I shall stay at home and be held in honor, just like an old grandfather; and I really am a grandfather to all these books. Now something will be done. I could not have wandered about as these books will. He who wrote all this looked at me. I am the happiest of all.”

Then the paper was tied into a bundle, and thrown into a tub. “It is good resting after work,” said the Paper. “Now I can collect my thoughts. What will be done with me now? I am always going forward. I have found that out.”

One day the Paper was taken out to be burned. The children all stood around, for they wanted to see it flame up and watch the red sparks. “Now I am mounting straight up to the sun,” said a voice in the flame, and it sounded as if a thousand voices said this at once. The flames mounted up through the chimney and out at the top, and, invisible to human eyes, tiny little beings floated there, as many as there had been blossoms on the Flax. Over the dead ashes the children sang:



The song is done.”

But the little invisible beings said,“The song is never done, that is best of all. I know it, and therefore am happiest of all.” But the children could not hear that nor understand it; nor ought they, for children must not know everything.

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