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ON a beautiful and quiet summer evening many years ago, a pious maiden went to the Vaskjala1 Bridge to bathe and refresh herself after the heat of the day. The sky was clear, and the song of the nightingale re-echoed from the neighbouring alder thicket. The Moon ascended to his heavenly pavilion, and gazed down with friendly eyes on the wreath of the maiden with the golden hair and rosy cheeks. The maiden’s heart was pure and innocent, and modest and clear as the waters of the spring p. 35 to its very depths. Suddenly she felt her heart beat faster, and a strange longing seized her, and she could no longer turn her eyes away from the face of the Moon. For because she was so good and pure and innocent, she had won the love of the Moon, who desired to fulfil her secret longings and the wish of her heart. But the pious maiden cherished but one wish in her heart, which she could not venture to express or to ask the Moon to fulfil, for she longed to depart from this world and to dwell for ever beneath the sky with the Moon, but the Moon knew the unexpressed thoughts of her heart.
It was again a lovely evening. The air was calm and peaceful, and again the song of the nightingale resounded through the night. The Moon gazed down once more into the depths at the bottom of the river near the Vaskjala Bridge, but no longer alone as before. The fair face of the maiden gazed down with him into the depths, and has ever since been visible in the Moon. Above in the far sky she lives in joy and contentment, and only desires that other maidens might share her happiness. So on moonlight nights her friendly eyes gaze down on her mortal sisters, and she seeks to invite them p. 36 as her guests. But none among them is so pure and modest and innocent as herself, and therefore none is worthy to ascend to her in the Moon. Sometimes this troubles the maiden in the Moon, and she hides her face sorrowfully in a black veil. Yet she does not abandon all hope, but trusts that on some future day one of her earthly sisters may be found sufficiently pious and pure and innocent for the Moon to call her to share this blessed life. So from time to time the Moon-maiden gazes down on the earth with increasing hope and laughing eyes, with her face unveiled, as on the happy evening when she first looked down from heaven on the Vaskjala Bridge. But the best and most intelligent of the daughters of earth fall into error and wander into by-paths, and none among them is pious and innocent enough to become the Moon’s companion. This makes the heart of the pious Moon-maiden sorrowful again, and she turns her face from us once more, and hides it under her black veil.
1 According to Jannsen, the forest which once surrounded the river Vaskia, which flows through a village of the same name near Revel, was formerly sacred to a goddess named Vaskia.