**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

The Bottle-neck
by [?]

In a narrow crooked street, among other abodes of poverty, stood an especially narrow and tall house built of timber, which time had knocked about in such fashion that it seemed to be out of joint in every direction. The house was inhabited by poor people, and the deepest poverty was apparent in the garret lodging in the gable, where, in front of the only window, hung an old bent birdcage, which had not even a proper water-glass, but only a bottle-neck reversed, with a cork stuck in the mouth, to do duty for one. An old maid stood by the window: she had hung the cage with green chickweed; and a little chaffinch hopped from perch to perch, and sang and twittered merrily enough.

“Yes, it’s all very well for you to sing,” said the Bottle-neck; that is to say, it did not pronounce the words as we can speak them, for a bottle-neck can’t speak; but that’s what he thought to himself in his own mind, like when we people talk quietly to ourselves. “Yes, it’s all very well for you to sing, you that have all your limbs uninjured. You ought to feel what it’s like to lose one’s body, and to have only mouth and neck left, and to be hampered with work into the bargain, as in my case; and then I’m sure you would not sing. But after all it is well that there should be somebody at least who is merry. I’ve no reason to sing, and, moreover, I can’t sing. Yes, when I was a whole bottle, I sung out well if they rubbed me with a cork. They used to call me a perfect lark, a magnificent lark! Ah, when I was out at a picnic with the tanner’s family, and his daughter was betrothed! Yes, I remember it as if it had happened only yesterday. I have gone through a great deal, when I come to recollect. I’ve been in the fire and the water, have been deep in the black earth, and have mounted higher than most of the others; and now I’m hanging here, outside the birdcage, in the air and the sunshine! Oh, it would be quite worth while to hear my history; but I don’t speak aloud of it, because I can’t.”

And now the Bottle-neck told its story, which was sufficiently remarkable. It told the story to itself, or only thought it in its own mind; and the little bird sang his song merrily, and down in the street there was driving and hurrying, and every one thought of his own affairs, or perhaps of nothing at all; and only the Bottle-neck thought. It thought of the flaming furnace in the manufactory, where it had been blown into life; it still remembered that it had been quite warm, that it had glanced into the hissing furnace, the home of its origin, and had felt a great desire to leap directly back again; but that gradually it had become cooler, and had been very comfortable in the place to which it was taken. It had stood in a rank with a whole regiment of brothers and sisters, all out of the same furnace; some of them had certainly been blown into champagne bottles, and others into beer bottles, and that makes a difference. Later, out in the world, it may well happen that a beer bottle may contain the most precious wine, and a champagne bottle be filled with blacking; but even in decay there is always something left by which people can see what one has been–nobility is nobility, even when filled with blacking.

All the bottles were packed up, and our bottle was among them. At that time it did not think to finish its career as a bottle-neck, or that it should work its way up to be a bird’s glass, which is always an honourable thing; for one is of some consequence, after all. The bottle did not again behold the light of day till it was unpacked with the other bottles in the cellar of the wine merchant, and rinsed out for the first time; and that was a strange sensation. There it lay, empty and without a cork, and felt strangely unwell, as if it wanted something, it could not tell what. At last it was filled with good costly wine, and was provided with a cork, and sealed down. A ticket was placed on it, marked “first quality;” and it felt as if it had carried off the first prize at an examination; for, you see, the wine was good and the bottle was good. When one is young, that’s the time for poetry! There was a singing and sounding within it, of things which it could not understand–of green sunny mountains, whereon the grape grows, where many vine dressers, men and women, sing and dance and rejoice. “Ah, how beautiful is life!” There was a singing and sounding to all this in the bottle, as in a young poet’s brain; and many a young poet does not understand the meaning of the song that is within him.