We may either take the railway or drive by Gurre, from hence to Elsinore (Helsingor), where the great castle of Kronberg rises, with many towers built of gray stone, at the end of the little town on a low promontory jutting out into the sea. Stately avenues surround its bastions, and it is delightful to walk upon the platform where the first scene of Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” is laid, and to watch the numberless ships in the narrow sound which divides Denmark and Sweden. The castle is in perfect preservation. It was formerly used as a palace. Anne of Denmark was married here by proxy to James VI. of Scotland, and here poor Caroline Matildat sat, daily for hours at her prison window watching vainly for the fleet of England which she believed was coming to her rescue. Beyond the castle, a sandy plain reminding us of Scottish links, covered with bent-grass and drifted by seaweed, extends to Marienlyst, a little fashionable bathing place embosomed in verdure. Here a Carmelite convent was founded by the wife of Eric IX., that Queen Philippadaughter of Henry IV. of Englandwho successfully defended Copenhagen against the Hanseatic League, but was afterward beaten by her husband, because her ships were defeated at Stralsund, an indignity which drove her to a monastic life.
Hamlet’s Grave and Ophelia’s Brook are shown at Marienlyst, having been invented for anxious inquirers by the complaisant inhabitants. Alas ! both were unknown to Andersen, who lived here in his childhood, and it is provoking to learn that Hamlet had really no especial connection with Elsinore, and was the son of a Jutland pirate in the insignificant island of Mors. But Denmark is the very home of picturesque stories, which are kept alive there by the ballad literature of the land, chiefly of the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, but still known to rich and poor alike as in no other country. For hundreds of years these poetical histories have been the tunes to which, in winter, when no other exercise can be taken, people dance for hours, holding each other’s hands in two lines, making three steps forward and backward, keeping time, balancing, or remaining still for a moment, as they sing one of their old ballads or its refrain.