Die Mappe meines Urgrossvaters
We saw in front of us a delicate spruce fir bent into an arch over our path, like a triumphal arch of the kind offered to the returning emperors. The weight and splendour of the ice hanging from the trees was indescribable. The pine trees stood like the candelabra of innumerable and huge inverted candles. […]
Now we recognised the noise that we had heard earlier in the air; it was not in the air, it was close to us now. In the depths of the forest it resounded near us and came from the twigs and branches as they splintered and fell to the ground. It was all the more dreadful as everything else stood motionless. Not a twig, not a pine needle stirred in the whole glittering brightness, until after an ice-fall a branch would come crashing down. Then all was silent again. We listened and stared; I don’t know whether it was amazement or fear of driving deeper into that thing. Our horse seemed to share a similar feeling, drawing in its hooves the poor beast nudged the sledge backwards. As we stood there staring—neither of us had said a word—we heard the same falling that we had already heard twice that day. By now we recognised it. First a high-pitched cracking, like a cry, then a short swishing or rustling, then the muffled rumbling thump with which a mighty tree trunk hit the earth. The thud resounded through the forest and between the deadening thicket of branches, accompanied by a clinking and shimmering, as though myriads of glass shards were being pushed and jangled together. Then all was as it had been, the tree trunks stood towering intertwined, nothing moved and the gentle motionless murmuring echoed on. It was strange when a branch, a twig or a piece of ice fell near us; one didn’t see it, or where it came from, one barely saw its lightning fall to the earth, often not at all, but heard only the thump, and then gazed as before into the distance. […]
If something amongst the trees gained only an ounce of weight, it could fall, the tips of the pine cones fall like wedged slivers to the ground and bore holes right through us, and lying on the path before us we saw many broken and scattered cones, and as we stood there we could hear more muffled blows in the distance. When we looked back over the open fields that we had crossed, there was, as had been the case all day, not a single person, not a living being to be seen, only Thomas and I and the horse alone amid the boundless Nature. I said to Thomas that we should turn back. He had the same idea. I got out, and with the horse he turned the sledge around. Then he got out as well. It seemed now that the ice was settling much faster than it had in the morning. Perhaps it was that we had been less aware of its appearance earlier and that in watching it its growth had seemed slower to us, and that now in the afternoon, as we had other things to do we only noticed after a while how the ice had accumulated. Or had it become colder and the rainfall heavier? We didn’t know.
Extract from Die Mappe meines Urgrossvaters
[“My Great Grandfather’s Portfolio”]
Transcription of the third edition, folio 149