From, Pictures of Sweden (1851)


In the garden of Paradise, under the tree of knowledge, stood a hedge of roses. In the first rose a bird was hatched; its flight was like that of light, its colours beautiful, its song magnificent.

But when Eve plucked the fruit of knowledge, when she and Adam were driven from the garden of Paradise, a spark from the avenging angel’s flaming sword fell into the bird’s nest and kindled it. The bird died in the flames, but from the red egg there flew a new one–the only one–the ever only bird Phoenix. The legend states that it takes up its abode in Arabia; that every hundred years it burns itself up in its nest, and that a new Phoenix, the only one in the world, flies out from the red egg.

The bird hovers around us, rapid as the light, beautiful in colour, glorious in song. When the mother sits by the child’s cradle, it is by the pillow, and with its wings flutters a glory around the child’s head. It flies through the chamber of contentment, and there is the sun’s radiance within:–the poor chest of drawers is odoriferous with violets.

But the bird Phoenix is not alone Arabia’s bird: it flutters in the rays of the Northern Lights on Lapland’s icy plains; it hops amongst the yellow flowers in Greenland’s short summer. Under Fahlun’s copper rocks, in England’s coal mines, it flies like a powdered moth over the hymn-book in the pious workman’s hands. It sails on the lotus-leaf down the sacred waters of the Ganges, and the eyes of the Hindoo girl glisten on seeing it.

The bird Phoenix! Dost thou not know it? The bird of Paradise, song’s sacred swan! It sat on the car of Thespis, like a croaking raven, and flapped its black, dregs-besmeared wings; over Iceland’s minstrel-harp glided the swan’s red, sounding bill. It sat on Shakspeare’s shoulder like Odin’s raven, and whispered in his ear: “Immortality!” It flew at the minstrel competition, through Wartzburg’s knightly halls.

The bird Phoenix! Dost thou not know it? It sang the Marseillaise for thee, and thou didst kiss the plume that fell from its wing: it came in the lustre of Paradise, and thou perhaps didst turn thyself away to some poor sparrow that sat with merest tinsel on its wings.

The bird of Paradise! regenerated every century, bred in flames, dead in flames; thy image set in gold hangs in the saloons of the rich, even though thou fliest often astray and alone. “The bird Phoenix in Arabia”–is but a legend.

In the garden of Paradise, when thou wast bred under the tree of knowledge, in the first rose, our Lord kissed thee and gave thee thy proper name–Poetry.


Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875), was a Danish author and poet, most renowned for his fairy tales, the first of which was published in 1835. His first major work was The Improvisatore (1835). His books of travel writing include A Walking Tour from the Holmen Canal to the Eastern Point of the Amager (1829); Shadow Pictures (1831), Life in Denmark (1836), and Pictures of Sweden (1851).