Pan, by Knut Hamsun


I have written this to pass the time. It has amused me to look back to that summer in Nordland, when I often counted the hours, but when time flew nevertheless. All is changed. The days will no longer pass.

I have many a merry hour even yet. But time — it stands still, and I cannot understand how it can stand so still. I am out of the service, and free as a prince; all is well; I meet people, drive in carriages; now and again I shut one eye and write with one finger up in the sky; I tickle the moon under the chin, and fancy that it laughs — laughs broadly at being tickled under the chin. All things smile. I pop a cork and call gay people to me.

As for Edwarda, I do not think of her. Why should I not have forgotten her altogether, after all this time? I have some pride. And if anyone asks whether I have any sorrows, then I answer straight out, “No — none.”

Cora lies looking at me. Æsop, it used to be, but now it is Cora that lies looking at me. The clock ticks on the mantel; outside my open window sounds the roar of the city. A knock at the door, and the postman hands me a letter. A letter with a coronet. I know who sent it; I understand it at once, or maybe I dreamed it one sleepless night. But in the envelope there is no letter at all — only two green bird’s feathers.

An icy horror thrills me; I turn cold. Two green feathers! I say to myself: Well, and what of it? But why should I turn cold? Why, there is a cursed draught from those windows.

And I shut the windows.

There lie two bird’s feathers, I think to myself again. I seem to know them; they remind me of a little jest up in Nordland, just a little episode among a host of others. It is amusing to see those two feathers again. And suddenly I seem to see a face and hear a voice, and the voice says: “Her, Herr Lieutenant: here are your feathers.”

“Your feathers.” . . .

Cora, lie still — do you hear? I will kill you if you move!

The weather is hot, an intolerable heat is in the room; what was I thinking of to close the windows? Open them again — open the door too; open it wide — this way, merry souls, come in! Hey, messenger, an errand — go out and fetch me a host of people . . .

And the day passes; but time stands still.

Now I have written this for my own pleasure only, and amused myself with it as best I could. No sorrow weighs on me, but I long to be away — where, I do not know, but far away, perhaps in Africa or India. For my place is in the woods, in solitude . . .

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55