Jens Peter Jacobsen (1847-1885)

Jacobsen, who began writing under the influence of Hans Christian Andersen, soon developed into a novelist and short story writer of great originality. Though he was as deeply interested in natural science as in literature, during the course of his short life he was influential chiefly as a writer.

Two Worlds is. typical of his poetic turn of mind, and reveals his technical skill as a story-teller. It is translated by H. Knudsen, first appeared in the Pagan magazine, and is here reprinted by permission of the editor.

Two Worlds

The Salzach is not a merry river. On its eastern bank lies a little village, very gloomy, very poor, and strangely quiet.

Like a miserable flock of misshapen beggars who have been stopped by the river, without fare for the ferryman, stand the houses down there on the uttermost edge of the bank, their decayed shoulders leaning against each other, and grope hopelessly with their weather beaten, crutch like supports in the grayish river, while their Hull windows stare from the background of their porches under the overhanging thatch-roof brows—stare with a scowling expression of hateful chagrin at the happier houses on the opposite bank which are built singly, or two by two, in cozy company, and are scattered, here and there, over the green plains, far toward the golden misty distance.

But about the poor houses there is no light; only depressing darkness and stillness, weighed down by the sound of the river which slowly, ceaselessly, rolls past, mumbling to itself on its way, so tired of life, so strangely absent minded.

The sun was setting, the locusts began to fill the air with their crystal- clear humming, which was carried over from the opposite shore by sudden weak gusts of wind that kept rising and dying away in the thin reeds on the shore.

A little way up the river a boat was approaching.

A weak, emaciated woman was standing in one of the houses close by the shore, bent over the railing of the porch, and looking toward the boat. She was shading her eyes with her almost transparent hand, for, up there where the boat was, the rays of the sun lay golden and sharply glittering on the water, as if it were sailing on a mirror of gold.

Through the clear dusk shone the woman’s wax-pale face, as if it had light in itself. Distinct and sharp, it could be seen, just as one sees the white foam which even in the darkest nights whitens the waves of the ocean. Full of fear, her hopeless eyes were searching; a strangely weak-minded smile lay about her tired mouth, but the vertical wrinkles in her protruding forehead nevertheless spread a shadow of the decision of despair over her entire face.

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