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Main > Fairy tale > All authors > Andersen Hans Christian > Fairy tale "On Judgment Day"

On Judgment Day

The most solemn of all the days of our life is the day we die. It is judgment day, the great sacred day of transfiguration. Have you really seriously given a fleeting thought to that grave and mighty last hour we shall spend on earth?

There was once a man, a stanch upholder of truth, as he was called, to whom the word of his God was law, a zealous servant of his zealous God. With a stern but heavenly look, the Angel of Death stood at his bedside.

"The hour has come; you shall follow me!" said Death, and touched the man's feet with ice-cold fingers, and his feet became like ice. Then Death touched his forehead, and lastly his heart, and when it burst, the soul was free to follow the Angel of Death.

But during those brief seconds while the icy touch shivered through feet and head and heart, there passed through the mind of the dying man, like great ocean waves, the recollection of all he had wrought and felt throughout his life. So does one terrified glance into a whirlpool reveal in thought as swift as lightning the whole unfathomable depth of it; so with one fleeting glance at the countless stars of heaven can one conceive the infinite multitude of worlds and spheres in the great universe.

In such a moment the terrified sinner shrinks into himself and has nothing to cling to, and he feels himself shrinking further into infinite emptiness. And at such times the devout soul bows its head to the Almighty and yields itself up to Him in childlike trust, praying, "Thy will be done with me!"

But this dying man had not the mind of a child, nor was he a terrified sinner; his thoughts were of self-praise. He knew that he had abided by religious traditions. Millions, he knew, would have to face judgment. But he believed most confidently that his path would lead straight heavenward, and that mercy, promised to all men, would open the gates to him.

And the soul followed the Angel of Death, casting only one wistful glance back at the bed where, in its white shroud, lay the lifeless image of clay, still bearing the print of the soul's individuality.

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