IT was winter-time; the air was cold, the wind was sharp,
but within the closed doors it was warm and comfortable, and
within the closed door lay the flower; it lay in the bulb
under the snow-covered earth.
One day rain fell. The drops penetrated through the snowy
covering down into the earth, and touched the flower-bulb, and
talked of the bright world above. Soon the Sunbeam pierced its
way through the snow to the root, and within the root there
was a stirring.
'Come in,' said the flower.
'I cannot,' said the Sunbeam. 'I am not strong enough to
unlock the door! When the summer comes I shall be strong!'
'When will it be summer?' asked the Flower, and she
repeated this question each time a new sunbeam made its way
down to her. But the summer was yet far distant. The snow
still lay upon the ground, and there was a coat of ice on the
water every night.
'What a long time it takes! what a long time it takes!'
said the Flower. 'I feel a stirring and striving within me; I
must stretch myself, I must unlock the door, I must get out,
and must nod a good morning to the summer, and what a happy
time that will be!'
And the Flower stirred and stretched itself within the
thin rind which the water had softened from without, and the
snow and the earth had warmed, and the Sunbeam had knocked at;
and it shot forth under the snow with a greenish-white blossom
on a green stalk, with narrow thick leaves, which seemed to
want to protect it. The snow was cold, but was pierced by the
Sunbeam, therefore it was easy to get through it, and now the
Sunbeam came with greater strength than before.
'Welcome, welcome!' sang and sounded every ray, and the
Flower lifted itself up over the snow into the brighter world.
The Sunbeams caressed and kissed it, so that it opened
altogether, white as snow, and ornamented with green stripes.
It bent its head in joy and humility.
'Beautiful Flower!' said the Sunbeams, 'how graceful and
delicate you are! You are the first, you are the only one! You
are our love! You are the bell that rings out for summer,
beautiful summer, over country and town. All the snow will
melt; the cold winds will be driven away; we shall rule; all
will become green, and then you will have companions,
syringas, laburnums, and roses; but you are the first, so
graceful, so delicate!'
That was a great pleasure. It seemed as if the air were
singing and sounding, as if rays of light were piercing
through the leaves and the stalks of the Flower. There it
stood, so delicate and so easily broken, and yet so strong in
its young beauty; it stood there in its white dress with the
green stripes, and made a summer. But there was a long time
yet to the summer-time. Clouds hid the sun, and bleak winds
'You have come too early,' said Wind and Weather. 'We have
still the power, and you shall feel it, and give it up to us.
You should have stayed quietly at home and not have run out to
make a display of yourself. Your time is not come yet!'
It was a cutting cold! The days which now come brought not
a single sunbeam. It was weather that might break such a
little Flower in two with cold. But the Flower had more
strength than she herself knew of. She was strong in joy and
in faith in the summer, which would be sure to come, which had
been announced by her deep longing and confirmed by the warm
sunlight; and so she remained standing in confidence in the
snow in her white garment, bending her head even while the
snow-flakes fell thick and heavy, and the icy winds swept over
'You'll break!' they said, 'and fade, and fade! What did
you want out here? Why did you let yourself be tempted? The
Sunbeam only made game of you. Now you have what you deserve,
you summer gauk.' 'Summer gauk!' she repeated in the cold
'O summer gauk!' cried some children rejoicingly; 'yonder
stands one- how beautiful, how beautiful! The first one, the
These words did the Flower so much good, they seemed to
her like warm sunbeams. In her joy the Flower did not even
feel when it was broken off. It lay in a child's hand, and was
kissed by a child's mouth, and carried into a warm room, and
looked on by gentle eyes, and put into water. How
strengthening, how invigorating! The Flower thought she had
suddenly come upon the summer.
The daughter of the house, a beautiful little girl, was
confirmed, and she had a friend who was confirmed, too. He was
studying for an examination for an appointment. 'He shall be
my summer gauk,' she said; and she took the delicate Flower
and laid it in a piece of scented paper, on which verses were
written, beginning with summer gauk and ending with summer
gauk. 'My friend, be a winter gauk.' She had twitted him with
the summer. Yes, all this was in the verses, and the paper was
folded up like a letter, and the Flower was folded in the
letter, too. It was dark around her, dark as in those days
when she lay hidden in the bulb. The Flower went forth on her
journey, and lay in the post-bag, and was pressed and crushed,
which was not at all pleasant; but that soon came to an end.
The journey was over; the letter was opened, and read by
the dear friend. How pleased he was! He kissed the letter, and
it was laid, with its enclosure of verses, in a box, in which
there were many beautiful verses, but all of them without
flowers; she was the first, the only one, as the Sunbeams had
called her; and it was a pleasant thing to think of that.
She had time enough, moreover, to think about it; she
thought of it while the summer passed away, and the long
winter went by, and the summer came again, before she appeared
once more. But now the young man was not pleased at all. He
took hold of the letter very roughly, and threw the verses
away, so that the Flower fell on the ground. Flat and faded
she certainly was, but why should she be thrown on the ground?
Still, it was better to be here than in the fire, where the
verses and the paper were being burnt to ashes. What had
happened? What happens so often:- the Flower had made a gauk
of him, that was a jest; the girl had made a fool of him, that
was no jest, she had, during the summer, chosen another
Next morning the sun shone in upon the little flattened
Snowdrop, that looked as if it had been painted upon the
floor. The servant girl, who was sweeping out the room, picked
it up, and laid it in one of the books which were upon the
table, in the belief that it must have fallen out while the
room was being arranged. Again the flower lay among verses-
printed verses- and they are better than written ones- at
least, more money has been spent upon them.
And after this years went by. The book stood upon the
book-shelf, and then it was taken up and somebody read out of
it. It was a good book; verses and songs by the old Danish
poet, Ambrosius Stub, which are well worth reading. The man
who was now reading the book turned over a page.
'Why, there's a flower!' he said; 'a snowdrop, a summer
gauk, a poet gauk! That flower must have been put in there
with a meaning! Poor Ambrosius Stub! he was a summer fool too,
a poet fool; he came too early, before his time, and therefore
he had to taste the sharp winds, and wander about as a guest
from one noble landed proprietor to another, like a flower in
a glass of water, a flower in rhymed verses! Summer fool,
winter fool, fun and folly- but the first, the only, the fresh
young Danish poet of those days. Yes, thou shalt remain as a
token in the book, thou little snowdrop: thou hast been put
there with a meaning.'
And so the Snowdrop was put back into the book, and felt
equally honored and pleased to know that it was a token in the
glorious book of songs, and that he who was the first to sing
and to write had been also a snowdrop, had been a summer gauk,
and had been looked upon in the winter-time as a fool. The
Flower understood this, in her way, as we interpret everything
in our way.
That is the story of the Snowdrop.