Niels Lyhne

On his second day in the field hospital, Niels grew more and more despondent from the nauseating stench in the room, and a yearning for fresh air and the desire to live had become strangely intertwined in his mind.  And yet there had been much beauty in his life, he thought, when he recalled the fresh breeze on the shore at home, the cool rustling in the beech forests of Sjaelland, the pure mountain air of Clarens, the gentle evening zephyr of Lago Di Garda.

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But whenever he thought about the people, his mind would feel sick again.  He called them up before him, one by one, and all of them walked past him and left him alone, and not one of them remained.  But how had he held on to them?  Had he been faithful?  It was simply that he had been slower to let go.  Not, that was not it at all. It was the great sadness that a soul is always alone.  Any belief in the merging of one soul with another is a lie.  Not the mother who took you onto her lap, not a friend, not the wife who rested next to your heart …

From Niels Lyhne, by Jens Peter Jacobsen (1880)

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