Ah! when I think how, at home in Nordland, I pictured to myself the king’s palace in Kristiania, with pinnacles and towers standing out grandly over the town, and the king’s men like a golden stream from the castle court right up to the throne-room; or Akershus fortress, when the thundering cannon announce the king’s arrival, and the air is filled with martial music and mighty royal commands; when I think how I pictured to myself “the high hall of light,” the University, as a great white chalk mountain, always with the sunshine on its windowpanes; or how I imagined the Storthing [Norwegian parliament] Hall, and the men who frequent it, whose names, magnified by fancy, echoed up to us, as though for each one there rang through the air a mighty resounding bell, names like Foss, Soerenssen, Jonas Anton Hjelm, Schweigaard, and many others; when I compare what I, up in the north, imagined about all this, with the “for our small conditions—most respectable reality,” in which I now live and move—it is like a card-castle of illusions, as high as Snehaetten, [Snehaetten—a mountain in the Dovre range, 7400 feet high.] falling over me. Until I was over twenty years of age, I lived only in a northern fairyland, and I am now for the first time born into the world of reality: I have been spell-bound in my own fancy.
If I were to tell any one all this, he would certainly—and the more sensible the man was the more surely—be of opinion that my good Examen Artium [Artium—an examination to be passed before admittance to the University is granted.] must clearly have come about by some mistake. But if life depends on theoretical reasoning and knowledge, I have, thank God, as good abilities as most men. And I know that in them I have a pair of pliant oars, with which, as long as I require to do so, I shall be able to row my boat through practical life without running aground. The load which I have in the boat, at times so very heavy, but then again so blissfully beautiful, no one shall see.
I feel a longing to weep away the whole of this northern fairy tale of mine, and would do it if I could only weep away my life with it. But why wish to lose all the loveliness, all the illusion, when I must still bear with me to my dying day the sadness it has laid upon me?
It will be a relief to me in quiet hours to put down my recollections of this home of mine, which so few down here understand. It is the tale of a poor mentally-diseased man, and in it there are more of his own impressions than of outward events.
* * * * *
* * * * *
My father was a country merchant, and owned the trading-place, ——ven in West Lofoten. He was really from Trondhjem, whence he had come north, as a destitute boy, in one of those small vessels which are sent from that city to Lofoten, to trade during the fishing season. In his youth he had gone through a great deal, and had even worked for a time in a boat’s crew, as a simple fisherman, until he at last got a place as shop-boy with Erlandsen the merchant, whose son-in-law he became.