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The English Bombardment of Copenhagen in 1807  by Mogens Klitgaard

Translated By J. F. S. Pearce

One lovely evening it all began. Sivertsen is standing in the street when the first bombs whistle through the air. He stands there, unable to move, and a few moments later the streets are lit up by the light of incendiary bombs. The air trembles with the crash of falling bombs. Then the whole town is silent, as if to take a breath. As if it were drawing a deep sigh in preparation for what is to come.

Then screams ring out. And then there is the clatter of feet along the streets as people run along. Then everybody starts to dash about aimlessly. Some run out of the houses, and some into them. A few people stand in the streets gazing up, unable to tear themselves away from the sight of the bombs as they fall through the sky, and the trails of light they leave behind them.

Fires are burning already.

It seems to be near The Church of Our Lady.

No, it's by St. Petri.

It's in both places.

It's in several places.

There are lots of fires. There are fires everywhere. Five fires, ten fires, fires in all directions. And there are guns going off in all directions. There are fires and explosions in all directions.

Then a bomb bursts right in front of Sivertsen.

Strangely enough, Sivertsen doesn't move from the spot. The bomb has stripped the front wall off a house hardly a hundred yards from him, yet he still stands there. Stones and earth and splinters of wood rattle down in the streets, and bombs and incendiary bombs tear through the air, leaving behind them streaks of fire, but Sivertsen still stands there. Not because he is afraid. Not because he is a coward. A strange feeling of cold futility renders him motionless. He is not paralyzed or petrified; he sees everything that is going on, rats pouring along the gutters in brown masses, a man with an injured arm screaming as he runs past him, a woman on her knees mopping blood and dirt from the legs of a little girl—there is a bustle of life and noise all around him, and his observation is remarkably clear; he suddenly perceives small things that he had never taken notice of before, a half-smothered tuft of grass between the paving-stones, the hair of the kneeling woman, the sturdy vitality of the rats' curving backs.

And suddenly he is seized by a powerful feeling of the joy of being alive. He puts his hand to his neck and grips it, to feel the life in it. His neck is warm, and he feels the blood pulsing under his finger- tips, as it beats out the rhythm of life within him; he has a powerful feeling of exhilaration, and from somewhere within him there arise thoughts of Caroline, and the warmth of her skin, and this great consciousness of life turns his thoughts to warmth and greatness, and this leads to a desire, a wish to meet Caroline's soft warmth, an urge to assert his existence.

Another bomb explosion sets him running.

He turns the corner into Laederstraede. A dog runs alongside him. It doesn't bark; it is frightened and keeps at his side, putting itself under his protection.

He runs on. He feels strangely light and strangely clear-headed and decisive. His mind is alert, and ready for any challenge. Nothing shall prevent him from living.

 
 
 

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