WHAT THE MOON SAW
by Hans Christian Anderson (1840)
"I looked through the windows of an editor's house," said the Moon. "It was somewhere in Germany. I saw handsome furniture, many books, and a chaos of newspapers. Several young men were present: the editor himself stood at his desk, and two little books, both by young authors, were to be noticed. 'This one has been sent to me,' said he. 'I have not read it yet; what think you of the contents?' 'Oh,' said the person addressed – he was a poet himself – 'it is good enough; a little broad, certainly; but, you see, the author is still young. The verses might be better, to be sure; the thoughts are sound, though there is certainly a good deal of common-place among them. But what will you have? You can't be always getting something new. That he'll turn out anything great I don't believe, but you may safely praise him. He is well read, a remarkable Oriental scholar, and has a good judgment. It was he who wrote that nice review of my 'Reflections on Domestic Life.' We must be lenient towards the young man."
"'But he is a complete hack!' objected another of the gentlemen. 'Nothing worse in poetry than mediocrity, and he certainly does not go beyond this.'
"'Poor fellow,' observed a third, 'and his aunt is so happy about him. It was she, Mr. Editor, who got together so many subscribers for your last translation.'
"'Ah, the good woman! Well, I have noticed the book briefly. Undoubted talent – a welcome offering – a flower in the garden of poetry – prettily brought out – and so on. But this other book – I suppose the author expects me to purchase it? I hear it is praised. He has genius, certainly: don't you think so?'
"'Yes, all the world declares as much,' replied the poet, 'but it has turned out rather wildly. The punctuation of the book, in particular, is very eccentric.'
"'It will be good for him if we pull him to pieces, and anger him a little, otherwise he will get too good an opinion of himself.'
"'But that would be unfair,' objected the fourth. 'Let us not carp at little faults, but rejoice over the real and abundant good that we find here: he surpasses all the rest.'
"'Not so. If he is a true genius, he can bear the sharp voice of censure. There are people enough to praise him. Don't let us quite turn his head.'
"'Decided talent,' wrote the editor, 'with the usual carelessness. that he can write incorrect verses may be seen in page 25, where there are two false quantities. We recommend him to study the ancients, etc.'
"I went away," continued the Moon, "and looked through the windows in the aunt's house. There sat the be-praised poet, the tame one; all the guests paid homage to him, and he was happy.
"I sought the other poet out, the wild one; him also I found in a great assembly at his patron's, where the tame poet's book was being discussed.
"'I shall read yours also,' said Mæcenas; 'but to speak honestly – you know I never hide my opinion from you – I don't expect much from it, for you are much too wild, too fantastic. But it must be allowed that, as a man, you are highly respectable.'
"A young girl sat in a corner; and she read in a book these words:
"'In the dust lies genius and glory,
But ev'ry-day talent will pay.
It's only the old, old story,
But the piece is repeated each day.'"