WHAT ONE CAN INVENT
THERE was once a young man who was studying tobe a poet.He wanted to become one by Easter,to marry,and to live by poetry.To write poems,he knew,was onlyto invent something,but he could not invent anything.Hehad been born too late,everything had been taken up be－fore he came into the world,everything had been writtenand told about.
"Happy people who were born thousands of yearsago!"said he."They could easily become immortal!Hap-py even,those who were born hundreds of years ago,forthen there was still something to make a poem about;howthe world is written out,and what can I write poetryabout?"
He worried about that till he became sick and ill. Wretched man!no doctor could help him,but perhaps thewise woman could!She lived in the little house beside thefield gate,which she opened for those riding and driving:she could open up more than the gate,she was wiser thanthe doctor,who drives in his own carriage and pays taxesfor his rank.
"I must go out to her!"said the young man.
The house she lived in was small and neat,but drearyto behold;there was neither tree nor flower;a bee－hive,which was very useful,stood outside the door;there was asmall potato patch,also very useful;and a ditch with sloe－bushes which had flowered and now bore berries,whichdraw the mouth together if one tastes them before they havegot frost.
"That is a true picture of our unpoetic time,I seehere!"thought the young man,and it was always a thought,a grain of gold,that he found by the wise woman's door.
"Write it down!"said she."Crumbs are also bread!I know why you come here;you cannot invent anything,and yet you want to be a poet by Easter!"
"Everything has been written down!"said he;"ourtime is not the old time!"
"No!"said the woman,"in olden times the wisewomen were burned,and poets went about with emptystomachs and holes in their elbows.The time is good,itis the very best!but you have not the right outlook on thething.You have not sharpened your hearing,and you donot say the Lord's Prayer at night.There is quite a lot ofall kinds of things to write poems about and tell of,if onecan tell.You can glean it from the plants and fruits ofthe earth,draw it from the running and the still waters,but you must understand it,understand how to catch asunbeam.Now try my spectacles,put my ear－trumpet inyour ear,pray to our Father,and leave off thinking ofyourself!"
The last thing was very difficult,more than a wisewoman ought to ask.
He got the spectacles and the ear－trumpet and wasplaced in the middle of the potato－patch;she gave him abig potato in his hand;sounds came from it;there came asong with words,the story of the potato,interesting—aneveryday story in ten parts;ten lines were enough.Andwhat did the potato sing?
It sang about itself and its family;the coming of thepotatoes to Europe,the misjudgement they had experi-enced and suffered,before they stood acknowledged as agreater blessing than a lump of gold.
"We were distributed by royal command from thecouncil-houses in all towns;notification of our great im－portance was given,but people did not believe in it,anddid not even understand how to plant us.One dug a holeand threw the whole of his bushel of potatoes into it;an－other stuck one potato here,one there,in the earth andexpected that they would each shoot up a perfect tree, from which one could shake potatoes.There came growth,flowers,and watery fruit,but it all withered away.Noone thought of what lay at the root,the blessing,—thepotatoes.
"Yes,we have experienced and suffered—that is tosay,our ancestors,they and we,it is all the same thing!What a story!"
"Yes,now that will do!"said the woman."Now look at the sloe-bush!"
"We have also,"said the sloe,"near relations in thehome of the potatoes,farther north than they grow.North－men came there from Norway;they steered west through fogand storms to an unknown land,where,behind ice andsnow,they found plants and vegetables,bushes with blue-black grapes—the sloe－berries;the grapes were ripened bythe frost,just as we are.And the country was called'wine-land','green－land','sloe－land'!"
"That is quite a romantic story!"said the young man.
"Yes.Now come with me!"said the wise woman, and led him to the bee-hive.He looked into it.What lifeand stir!Bees stood in all the passages and waved theirwings,so that there might be fresh draughts of air in thewhole factory:that was their business.Now came from out－side,bees born with baskets on their legs;they broughtpollen-dust,which was shaken out,sorted and made intohoney and wax.They flew in and out.The queen－beewanted to fly too,but they must all go with her;it was notyet time for that:but still she wished to fly;so they bitthe wings off her Majesty,and so she had to remain.
"Now get up on the earth－bank!"said the woman, "Come and look out over the highway,where people are tobe seen!"
"What a crowd it is!"said the young man."Story af-ter story!it whirls and whirls!I get quite confused.I shallfall backwards!"
"No,go forward,"said the woman,"go right into thecrowd,have an eye for it,an ear for it,and a heart aswell!then you will soon invent something;but before yougo,I must have my spectacles and my ear－trumpet,"andso saying she took them both.
"Now I can't see the least thing!"said the youngman,"now I hear nothing more!"
"Well,then,you can't become a poet before East-er,"said the wise woman.
"But when,then?"he asked.
"Neither by Easter,nor by Whitsuntide!You will notlearn how to invent anything."
"What shall I do,then,to earn my bread by poetry?"
"You can join in the Shrove－Tuesday sports,andknock the poets out of the barrel!To hit at their writingsis as good as hitting themselves.Only don't let yourselfbe abashed;strike boldly,and so you will get dumplingswith which you can feed both your wife and yourself."
"What one can invent!"said the young man,and sohe knocked down every other poet,because he could notbe a poet himself.
We have it from the wise woman;she knows whatone can invent.