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
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.