BY ESAIAS TEGNER
Three miles extended around the fields of the homestead, on three sides
Valleys and mountains and hills, but on the fourth side was the ocean.
Birch woods crowned the summits, but down the slope of the hillsides
Flourished the golden corn, and man-high was waving the rye-field.
Lakes, full many in number, their mirror held up for the mountains,
Held for the forests up, in whose depths the high-horned reindeers
Had their kingly walk, and drank of a hundred brooklets.
But in the valleys widely around, there fed on the greensward
Herds with shining hides and udders that longed for the milk-pail.
'Mid these scattered, now here and now there, were numberless flocks of
Sheep with fleeces white, as thou seest the white-looking stray clouds,
Flock-wise spread o'er the heavenly vault when it bloweth in springtime.
Coursers two times twelve, all mettlesome, fast fettered storm-winds,
Stamping stood in the line of stalls, and tugged at their fodder.
Knotted with red were their manes, and their hoofs all white with steel shoes.
Th' banquet-hall, a house by itself, was timbered of hard fir.
Not five hundred men (at ten times twelve to the hundred)
Filled up the roomy hall, when assembled for drinking, at Yule-tide.
Through the hall, as long as it was, went a table of holm-oak,
Polished and white, as of steel; the columns twain of the High-seat
Stood at the end thereof, two gods carved out of an elm-tree:
Odin with lordly look, and Frey with the sun on his frontlet.
Lately between the two, on a bear-skin (the skin it was coal-black,
Scarlet-red was the throat, but the paws were shodden with silver),
Thorsten sat with his friends, Hospitality sitting with Gladness.
Oft, when the moon through the cloudrack flew, related the old man
Wonders from distant lands he had seen, and cruises of Vikings
Far away on the Baltic, and Sea of the West and the White Sea.
Hushed sat the listening bench, and their glances hung on the graybeard's
Lips, as a bee on the rose; but the Scald was thinking of Brage,
Where, with his silver beard, and runes on his tongue, he is seated
Under the leafy beech, and tells a tradition by Mimer's
Ever-murmuring wave, himself a living tradition.
Midway the floor (with thatch was it strewn) burned ever the fire-flame
Glad on its stone-built hearth; and thorough the wide-mouthed smoke-flue
Looked the stars, those heavenly friends, down into the great hall.
Round the walls, upon nails of steel, were hanging in order
Breastplate and helmet together, and here and there among them
Downward lightened a sword, as in winter evening a star shoots.
More than helmets and swords the shields in the hall were resplendent,
White as the orb of the sun, or white as the moon's disk of silver.
Ever and anon went a maid round the hoard, and filled up the drink-horns,
Ever she cast down her eyes and blushed; in the shield her reflection
Blushed, too, even as she; this gladdened the drinking champions.
A SLEDGE-RIDE ON THE ICE
King Ring with his queen to the banquet did fare,
On the lake stood the ice so mirror-clear,
"Fare not o'er the ice," the stranger cries;
"It will burst, and full deep the cold bath lies."
"The king drowns not easily," Ring outspake;
"He who's afraid may go round the lake."
Threatening and dark looked the stranger round,
His steel shoes with haste on his feet he bound,
The sledge-horse starts forth strong and free;
He snorteth flames, so glad is he.
"Strike out," screamed the king, "my trotter good,
Let us see if thou art of Sleipner's blood."
They go as a storm goes over the lake.
No heed to his queen doth the old man take.
But the steel-shod champion standeth not still,
He passeth them by as swift as he will.
He carves many runes in the frozen tide,
Fair Ingeborg o'er her own name doth glide.
Spring is coming, birds are twittering, forests leaf, and smiles the sun,
And the loosened torrents downward, singing, to the ocean run;
Glowing like the cheek of Freya, peeping rosebuds 'gin to ope,
And in human hearts awaken love of life, and joy, and hope.
Now will hunt the ancient monarch, and the queen shall join the sport:
Swarming in its gorgeous splendor, is assembled all the Court;
Bows ring loud, and quivers rattle, stallions paw the ground alway,
And, with hoods upon their eyelids, scream the falcons for their prey.
See, the Queen of the Chase advances! Frithiof, gaze not at the sight!
Like a star upon a spring-cloud sits she on her palfrey white.
Half of Freya, half of Rota, yet more beauteous than these two,
And from her light hat of purple wave aloft the feathers blue.
Gaze not at her eyes' blue heaven, gaze not at her golden hair!
Oh beware! her waist is slender, full her bosom is, beware!
Look not at the rose and lily on her cheek that shifting play,
List not to the voice beloved, whispering like the wind of May.
Now the huntsman's band is ready. Hurrah! over hill and dale!
Horns ring, and the hawks right upward to the hall of Odin sail.
All the dwellers in the forest seek in fear their cavern homes,
But, with spear outstretched before her, after them the Valkyr comes.
. . . . . . . . . .
Then threw Frithiof down his mantle, and upon the greensward spread,
And the ancient king so trustful laid on Frithiof's knee his head,
Slept as calmly as the hero sleepeth, after war's alarm,
On his shield, or as an infant sleeps upon its mother's arm.
As he slumbers, hark! there sings a coal-black bird upon the bough;
"Hasten, Frithiof, slay the old man, end your quarrel at a blow:
Take his queen, for she is thine, and once the bridal kiss she gave,
Now no human eye beholds thee, deep and silent is the grave,"
Frithiof listens; hark! there sings a snow-white bird upon the bough:
"Though no human eye beholds thee, Odin's eye beholds thee now.
Coward! wilt thou murder sleep, and a defenceless old man slay!
Whatsoe'er thou winn'st, thou canst not win a hero's fame this way."
Thus the two wood-birds did warble: Frithiof took his war-sword good,
With a shudder hurled it from him, far into the gloomy wood.
Coal-black bird flies down to Nastrand, but on light, unfolded wings,
Like the tone of harps, the other, sounding towards the sun, upsprings.
Straight the ancient king awakens. "Sweet has been my sleep," he said;
"Pleasantly sleeps one in the shadow, guarded by a brave man's blade.
But where is thy sword, O stranger? Lightning's brother, where is he?
Who thus parts you, who should never from each other parted be?"
"It avails not," Frithiof answered; "in the North are other swords:
Sharp, O monarch! is the sword's tongue, and it speaks not peaceful words;
Murky spirits dwell in steel blades, spirits from the Niffelhem;
Slumber is not safe before them, silver locks but anger them."
No more shall I see
In its upward motion
The smoke of the Northland. Man is a slave:
The fates decree.
On the waste of the ocean
There is my fatherland, there is my grave.
Go not to the strand,
Ring, with thy bride,
After the stars spread their light through the sky.
Perhaps in the sand,
Washed up by the tide,
The bones of the outlawed Viking may lie.
Then, quoth the king,
"'T is mournful to hear
A man like a whimpering maiden cry.
The death-song they sing
Even now in mine ear,
What avails it? He who is born must die."