Peer Gynt, by Henrik Ibsen

Act First

Scene First

[A wooded hillside near ÅSE’s farm. A river rushes down the slope. On the further side of it an old mill shed. It is a hot day in summer.]

[PEER GYNT, a strongly-built youth of twenty, comes down the pathway. His mother, ÅSE, a small, slightly built woman, follows him, scolding angrily.]

Åse

Peer, you’re lying!

Peer [without stopping]

No, I am not!

Åse

Well then, swear that it is true!

Peer

Swear? Why should I?

Åse

See, you dare not!
It’s a lie from first to last.

Peer [stopping]

It is true — each blessed word!

Åse [confronting him]

Don’t you blush before your mother?
First you skulk among the mountains
monthlong in the busiest season,
stalking reindeer in the snows;
home you come then, torn and tattered,
gun amissing, likewise game; —
and at last, with open eyes,
think to get me to believe
all the wildest hunters’-lies! —
Well, where did you find the buck, then?

Peer

West near Gendin.

Åse [laughing scornfully]

Ah! Indeed!

Peer

Keen the blast towards me swept;
hidden by an alder-clump,
he was scraping in the snow-crust
after lichen —

Åse [as before]

Doubtless, yes!

Peer

Breathlessly I stood and listened,
heard the crunching of his hoof,
saw the branches of one antler.
Softly then among the boulders
I crept forward on my belly.
Crouched in the moraine I peered up; —
such a buck, so sleek and fat,
you, I’m sure, have ne’er set eyes on.

Åse

No, of course not!

Peer

Bang! I fired!
Clean he dropped upon the hillside.
But the instant that he fell
I sat firm astride his back,
gripped him by the left ear tightly,
and had almost sunk my knife-blade
in his neck, behind his skull —
when, behold! the brute screamed wildly,
sprang upon his feet like lightning,
with a back-cast of his head
from my fist made knife and sheath fly,
pinned me tightly by the thigh,
jammed his horns against my legs,
clenched me like a pair of tongs; —
then forthwith away he flew
right along the Gendin–Edge!

Åse [involuntarily]

Jesus save us —!

Peer

Have you ever
chanced to see the Gendin–Edge?
Nigh on four miles long it stretches
sharp before you like a scythe.
Down o’er glaciers, landslips, scaurs,
down the toppling grey moraines,
you can see, both right and left,
straight into the tarns that slumber,
black and sluggish, more than seven
hundred fathoms deep below you.
Right along the Edge we two
clove our passage through the air.
Never rode I such a colt!
Straight before us as we rushed
’twas as though there glittered suns.
Brown-backed eagles that were sailing
in the wide and dizzy void
half-way ’twixt us and the tarns,
dropped behind, like motes in air.
Ice-floes on the shores broke crashing,
but no murmur reached my ears.
Only sprites of dizziness sprang,
dancing, round; — they sang, they swung,
circle-wise, past sight and hearing!

ÅSE [dizzy]

Oh, God save me!

Peer

All at once,
at a desperate, break-neck spot,
rose a great cock-ptarmigan,
flapping, cackling, terrified,
from the crack where he lay hidden
at the buck’s feet on the Edge.
Then the buck shied half around,
leapt sky-high, and down we plunged
both of us into the depths!

[ÅSE totters, and catches at the trunk of a tree. PEER GYNT continues:]

Mountain walls behind us, black,
and below a void unfathomed!
First we clove through banks of mist,
then we clove a flock of sea-gulls,
so that they, in mid-air startled,
flew in all directions, screaming.
Downward rushed we, ever downward.
But beneath us something shimmered,
whitish, like a reindeer’s belly. —
Mother, ’twas our own reflection
in the glass-smooth mountain tarn,
shooting up towards the surface
with the same wild rush of speed
wherewith we were shooting downwards.

Åse [gasping for breath]

Peer! God help me —! Quickly, tell —!

Peer

Buck from over, buck from under,
in a moment clashed together,
scattering foam-flecks all around.
There we lay then, floating, plashing —
But at last we made our way
somehow to the northern shore;
buck, he swam, I clung behind him:—
I ran homewards —

Åse

But the buck, dear?

Peer

He’s there still, for aught I know; —

[Snaps his fingers, turns on his heel, and adds:]

catch him, and you’re welcome to him!

Åse

And your neck you haven’t broken?
Haven’t broken both your thighs?
and your backbone, too, is whole?
Oh, dear Lord — what thanks, what praise,
should be thine who helped my boy!
There’s a rent, though, in your breeches;
but it’s scarce worth talking of
when one thinks what dreadful things
might have come of such a leap —!

[Stops suddenly, looks at him open-mouthed and wide-eyed; cannot find words for some time, but at last bursts out:]

Oh, you devil’s story-teller,
Cross of Christ, how you can lie!
All this screed you foist upon me,
I remember now, I knew it
when I was a girl of twenty.
Gudbrand Glesne it befell,
never you, you —

Peer

Me as well.
Such a thing can happen twice.

Åse [exasperated]

Yes, a lie, turned topsy-turvy,
can be prinked and tinselled out,
decked in plumage new and fine,
till none knows its lean old carcass.
That is just what you’ve been doing,
vamping up things, wild and grand,
garnishing with eagles’ backs
and with all the other horrors,
lying right and lying left,
filling me with speechless dread,
till at last I recognised not
what of old I’d heard and known!

Peer

If another talked like that
I’d half kill him for his pains.

Åse [weeping]

Oh, would God I lay a corpse;
would the black earth held me sleeping!
Prayers and tears don’t bite upon him. —
Peer, you’re lost, and ever will be!

Peer

Darling, pretty little mother,
you are right in every word; —
don’t be cross, be happy —

Åse

Silence!
Could I, if I would, be happy,
with a pig like you for son?
Think how bitter I must find it,
I, a poor defenceless widow,
ever to be put to shame!

[Weeping again.]

How much have we now remaining
from your grandsire’s days of glory?
Where are now the sacks of coin
left behind by Rasmus Gynt?
Ah, your father lent them wings —
lavished them abroad like sand,
buying land in every parish,
driving round in gilded chariots.
Where is all the wealth he wasted
at the famous winter-banquet,
when each guest sent glass and bottle
shivering ’gainst the wall behind him?

Peer

Where’s the snow of yester-year?

Åse

Silence, boy, before your mother!
See the farmhouse! Every second
window-pane is stopped with clouts.
Hedges, fences, all are down,
beasts exposed to wind and weather,
fields and meadows lying fallow,
every month a new distraint —

Peer

Come now, stop this old-wife’s talk!
Many a time has luck seemed dropping,
and sprung up as high as ever!

Åse

Salt-strewn is the soil it grew from.
Lord, but you’re a rare one, you —
just as pert and jaunty still,
just as bold as when the pastor,
newly come from Copenhagen,
bade you tell your Christian name,
and declared that such a headpiece
many a prince down there might envy;
till the cob your father gave him,
with a sledge to boot, in thanks
for his pleasant, friendly talk. —
Ah, but things went bravely then!
Provost, captain, all the rest,
dropped in daily, ate and drank,
swilling, till they well-nigh burst.
But ’tis need that tests one’s neighbour.
Still it grew and empty here
from the day that “Gold-bag Jon”
started with his pack, a pedlar.

[Dries her eyes with her apron.]

Ah, you’re big and strong enough,
you should be a staff and pillar
for your mother’s frail old age —
you should keep the farm-work going,
guard the remnants of your gear; —

[Crying again.]

oh, God help me, small’s the profit
you have been to me, you scamp!
Lounging by the hearth at home,
grubbing in the charcoal embers;
or, round all the country, frightening
girls away from merry-makings —
shaming me in all directions,
fighting with the worst rapscallions —

Peer [turning away from her]

Let me be.

Åse [following him]

Can you deny
that you were the foremost brawler
in the mighty battle royal
fought the other day at Lunde,
when you raged like mongrels mad?
Who was it but you that broke
Blacksmith Aslak’s arm for him —
or at any rate that wrenched one
of his fingers out of joint?

Peer

Who has filled you with such prate?

ÅSE [hotly]

Cottar Kari heard the yells!

Peer [rubbing his elbow]

Maybe, but ’twas I that howled.

Åse

You?

Peer

Yes, mother — I got beaten.

Åse

What d’you say?

Peer

He’s limber, he is.

Åse

Who?

Peer

Why Aslak, to be sure.

Åse

Shame — and shame; I spit upon you!
Such a worthless sot as that,
such a brawler, such a sodden
dram-sponge to have beaten you!

[Weeping again.]

Many a shame and slight I’ve suffered;
but that this should come to pass
is the worst disgrace of all.
What if he be ne’er so limber,
need you therefore be a weakling?

Peer

Though I hammer or am hammered —
still we must have lamentations.

[Laughing.]

Cheer up, mother —

Åse

What? You’re lying
now again?

Peer

Yes, just this once.
Come now, wipe your tears away; —

[Clenching his left hand.]

see — with this same pair of tongs,
thus I held the smith bent double,
while my sledge-hammer right fist —

Åse

Oh, you brawler! You will bring me
with your doings to the grave!

Peer

No, you’re worth a better fate;
better twenty thousand times!
Little, ugly, dear old mother,
you may safely trust my word —
all the parish shall exalt you;
only wait till I have done
something — something really grand!

Åse [contemptuously]

You!

Peer

Who knows what may befall one!

Åse

Would you’d get so far in sense
one day as to do the darning
of your breeches for yourself!

Peer [hotly]

I will be a king, a kaiser!

Åse

Oh, God comfort me, he’s losing
all the wits that he had left!

Peer

Yes, I will! just give me time!

Åse

Give you time, you’ll be a prince,
so the saying goes, I think!

Peer

You shall see!

Åse

Oh, hold your tongue!
You’re as mad as mad can be. —
Ah, and yet it’s true enough —
something might have come of you,
had you not been steeped for ever
in your lies and trash and moonshine.
Hegstad’s girl was fond of you.
Easily you could have won her
had you wooed her with a will —

Peer

Could I?

Åse

The old man’s too feeble
not to give his child her way.
He is stiff-necked in a fashion
but at last ’tis Ingrid rules;
and where she leads, step by step,
stumps the gaffer, grumbling, after.

[Begins to cry again.]

Ah, my Peer! — a golden girl —
land entailed on her! just think,
had you set your mind upon it,
you’d be now a bridegroom brave —
you that stand here grimed and tattered!

Peer [briskly]

Come, we’ll go a-wooing, then!

Åse

Where?

Peer

At Hegstad!

Åse

Ah, poor boy;
Hegstad way is barred to wooers!

Peer

How is that?

Åse

Ah, I must sigh!
Lost the moment, lost the luck —

Peer

Speak!

Åse [sobbing]

While in the Wester-hills
you in air were riding reindeer,
here Mads Moen’s won the girl!

Peer

What! That women’s-bugbear! He —!

Åse

Ay, she’s taking him for husband.

Peer

Wait you here till I have harnessed
horse and waggon —

[Going.]

Åse

Spare your pains.
They are to be wed to-morrow —

Peer

Pooh; this evening I’ll be there!

Åse

Fie now! Would you crown our miseries
with a load of all men’s scorn?

Peer

Never fear; ’twill all go well.

[Shouting and laughing at the same time.]

Mother, jump! We’ll spare the waggon;
’twould take time to fetch the mare up —

[Lifts her up in his arms.]

Åse

Put me down!

Peer

No, in my arms
I will bear you to the wedding!

[Wades out into the stream.]

Åse

Help! The Lord have mercy on us!
Peer! We’re drowning —

Peer

I was born
for a braver death —

Åse

Ay, true;
sure enough you’ll hang at last!

[Tugging at his hair.]

Oh, you brute!

Peer

Keep quiet now;
here the bottom’s slippery-slimy.

Åse

Ass!

Peer

That’s right, don’t spare your tongue;
that does no one any harm.
Now it’s shelving up again —

Åse

Don’t you drop me!

Peer

Heisan! Hop!
Now we’ll play at Peer and reindeer; —

[Curvetting.]

I’m the reindeer, you are Peer!

Åse

Oh, I’m going clean distraught!

Peer

There see; now we’ve reached the shallows; —

[Wades ashore.]

come, a kiss now, for the reindeer;
just to thank him for the ride —

Åse [boxing his ears]

This is how I thank him!

Peer

Ow!
That’s a miserable fare!

Åse

Put me down!

Peer

First to the wedding.
Be my spokesman. You’re so clever;
talk to him, the old curmudgeon;
say Mads Moen’s good for nothing —

Åse

Put me down!

Peer

And tell him then
what a rare lad is Peer Gynt.

Åse

Truly, you may swear to that!
Fine’s the character I’ll give you.
Through and through I’ll show you up;
all about your devil’s pranks
I will tell them straight and plain —

Peer

Will you?

Åse [kicking with rage]

I won’t stay my tongue
till the old man sets his dog
at you, as you were a tramp!

Peer

Hm; then I must go alone.

Åse

Ay, but I’ll come after you!

Peer

Mother dear, you haven’t strength —

Åse

Strength? When I’m in such a rage,
I could crush the rocks to powder!
Hu! I’d make a meal of flints!
Put me down!

Peer

You’ll promise then —

Åse

Nothing! I’ll to Hegstad with you!
They shall know you, what you are!

Peer

Then you’ll even have to stay here.

Åse

Never! To the feast I’m coming!

Peer

That you shan’t.

Åse

What will you do?

Peer

Perch you on the mill-house roof.

[He puts her up on the roof. ÅSE screams.]

Åse

Lift me down!

Peer

Yes, if you’ll listen —

Åse

Rubbish!

Peer

Dearest mother, pray —!

Åse [throwing a sod of grass at him]

Lift me down this moment, Peer!

Peer

If I dared, be sure I would.

[Coming nearer.]

Now remember, sit quite still.
Do not sprawl and kick about;
do not tug and tear the shingles —
else ’twill be the worse for you;
you might topple down.

Åse

You beast!

Peer

Do not kick!

Åse

I’d have you blown,
like a changeling, into space!

Peer

Mother, fie!

Åse

Bah!

Peer

Rather give your
blessing on my undertaking.
Will you? Eh?

Åse

I’ll thrash you soundly,
hulking fellow though you be!

Peer

Well, good-bye then, mother dear!
Patience; I’ll be back ere long.

[Is going, but turns, holds up his finger warningly, and says:]

Careful now, don’t kick and sprawl!

[Goes.]

Åse

Peer! — God help me, now he’s off;
Reindeer-rider! Liar! Hei!
Will you listen! — No, he’s striding
o’er the meadow —! [Shrieks.] Help! I’m dizzy!

[TWO OLD WOMEN, with sacks on their backs, come down the path to the mill.]

First Woman

Christ, who’s screaming?

Åse

It is I!

Second Woman

Åse! Well, you are exalted!

Åse

This won’t be the end of it; —
soon, God help me, I’ll be heaven-high!

First Woman

Bless your passing!

Åse

Fetch a ladder;
I must be down! That devil Peer —

Second Woman

Peer! Your son?

Åse

Now you can say
you have seen how he behaves.

First Woman

We’ll bear witness.

Åse

Only help me;
straight to Hegstad I will hasten —

Second Woman

Is he there?

First Woman

You’ll be revenged, then;
Aslak Smith will be there too.

Åse [wringing her hands]

Oh, God help me with my boy;
they will kill him ere they’re done!

First Woman

Oh, that lot has oft been talked of;
comfort you: what must be must be!

Second Woman

She is utterly demented.

[Calls up the hill.]

Eivind, Anders! Hei! Come here!

A Man’s Voice

What’s amiss?

Second Woman

Peer Gynt has perched his
mother on the mill-house roof!

Scene Second

[A hillock, covered with bushes and heather. The highroad runs behind it; a fence between.]

[PEER GYNT comes along a footpath, goes quickly up to the fence, stops, and looks out over the stretch of country below.]

Peer

There it lies, Hegstad. Soon I’ll have reached it.

[Puts one leg over the fence; then hesitates.]

Wonder if Ingrid’s alone in the house now?

[Shades his eyes with his hand, and looks out.]

No; to the farm guests are swarming like gnats. —
Hm, to turn back now perhaps would be wisest.

[Draws back his leg.]

Still they must titter behind your back,
and whisper so that it burns right through you.

[Moves a few steps away from the fence, and begins absently plucking leaves.]

Ah, if I’d only a good strong dram now.
Or if I could pass to and fro unseen. —
Or were I unknown. — Something proper and strong
were the best thing of all, for the laughter don’t bite then.

[Looks around suddenly as though afraid; then hides among the bushes. Some WEDDING–GUESTS pass by, going downwards towards the farm.]

A Man [in conversation as they pass]

His father was drunken, his mother is weak.

A Woman

Ay, then it’s no wonder the lad’s good for nought.

[They pass on. Presently PEER GYNT comes forward, his face flushed with shame. He peers after them.]

Peer [softly]

Was it me they were talking of?

[With a forced shrug.]

Oh, let them chatter!
After all, they can’t sneer the life out of my body.

[Casts himself down upon the heathery slope; lies for some time flat on his back with his hands under his head, gazing up into the sky.]

What a strange sort of cloud! It is just like a horse.
There’s a man on it too — and saddle — and bridle. —
And after it comes an old crone on a broomstick.

[Laughs quietly to himself.]

It is mother. She’s scolding and screaming: You beast!
Hei you, Peer Gynt — [His eyes gradually close.] Ay, now
she is frightened. —
Peer Gynt he rides first, and there follow him many. —
His steed it is gold-shod and crested with silver.
Himself he has gauntlets and sabre and scabbard.
His cloak it is long, and its lining is silken.
Full brave is the company riding behind him.
None of them, though, sits his charger so stoutly.
None of them glitters like him in the sunshine. —
Down by the fence stand the people in clusters,
lifting their hats, and agape gazing upwards.
Women are curtseying. All the world knows him,
Kaiser Peer Gynt, and his thousands of henchmen.
Sixpenny pieces and glittering shillings
over the roadway he scatters like pebbles.
Rich as a lord grows each man in the parish.
High o’er the ocean Peer Gynt goes a-riding.
Engelland’s Prince on the seashore awaits him;
there too await him all Engelland’s maidens.
Engelland’s nobles and Engelland’s Kaiser,
see him come riding and rise from their banquet.
Raising his crown, hear the Kaiser address him —

Aslak The Smith [to some other young men, passing along the road]

Just look at Peer Gynt there, the drunken swine —!

Peer [starting half up]

What, Kaiser —!

The Smith [leaning against the fence and grinning]

Up with you, Peer, my lad!

Peer

What the devil? The smith? What do you want here?

The Smith [to the others]

He hasn’t got over the Lunde-spree yet.

Peer [jumping up]

You’d better be off!

The Smith

I am going, yes.
But tell us, where have you dropped from, man?
You’ve been gone six weeks. Were you troll-taken, eh?

Peer

I have been doing strange deeds, Aslak Smith!

The Smith [winking to the others]

Let us hear them, Peer!

Peer

They are nought to you.

The Smith [after a pause]

You’re going to Hegstad?

Peer

No.

The Smith

Time was
they said that the girl there was fond of you.

Peer

You grimy crow —!

The Smith [falling back a little]

Keep your temper, Peer!
Though Ingrid has jilted you, others are left; —
think — son of Jon Gynt! Come on to the feast;
you’ll find there both lambkins and widows well on —

Peer

To hell —!

The Smith

You will surely find one that will have you. —
Good evening! I’ll give your respects to the bride. —

[They go off, laughing and whispering.]

Peer [looks after them a while, then makes a defiant motion and turns half round]

For my part, may Ingrid of Hegstad go marry
whoever she pleases. It’s all one to me.

[Looks down at his clothes.]

My breeches are torn. I am ragged and grim. —
If only I had something new to put on now.

[Stamps on the ground.]

If only I could, with a butcher-grip,
tear out the scorn from their very vitals!

[Looks round suddenly.]

What was that? Who was it that tittered behind there?
Hm, I certainly thought — No no, it was no one. —
I’ll go home to mother.

[Begins to go upwards, but stops again and listens towards Hegstad.]

They’re playing a dance!

[Gazes and listens; moves downwards step by step, his eyes glisten; he rubs his hands down his thighs.]

How the lasses do swarm! Six or eight to a man!
Oh, galloping death — I must join in the frolic! —
But how about mother, perched up on the mill-house —

[His eyes are drawn downwards again; he leaps and laughs.]

Hei, how the Halling flies over the green!
Ay, Guttorm, he can make his fiddle speak out!
It gurgles and booms like a foss o’er a scaur.
And then all that glittering bevy of girls! —
Yes, galloping death, I must join in the frolic!

[Leaps over the fence and goes down the road.]

Scene Third

[The farm-place at Hegstad. In the background, the dwelling-house. A THRONG OF GUESTS. A lively dance in progress on the green. THE FIDDLER sits on a table. THE MASTER–COOK is standing in the doorway. COOKMAIDS are going to and fro between the different buildings Groups of ELDERLY PEOPLE sit here and there, talking.]

A Woman [joins a group that is seated on some logs of wood]

The bride? Oh yes, she is crying a bit;
but that, you know, isn’t worth heeding.

The Master-cook [in another group]

Now then, good folk, you must empty the barrel.

A Man

Thanks to you, friend; but you fill up too quick.

A Lad [to the FIDDLER as he flies past, holding A GIRL by the hand]

To it now, Guttorm, and don’t spare the fiddlestrings!

The Girl

Scrape till it echoes out over the meadows!

Other Girls [standing in a ring round a lad who is dancing]

That’s a rare fling!

A Girl

He has legs that can lift him!

The Lad [dancing]

The roof here is high, and the walls wide asunder!

The Bridegroom [comes whimpering up to his FATHER, who is standing talking with some other men, and twitches his jacket]

Father, she will not; she is so proud!

His Father

What won’t she do?

The Bridegroom

She has locked herself in.

His Father

Well, you must manage to find the key.

The Bridegroom

I don’t know how.

His Father

You’re a nincompoop!

[Turns away to the others. The BRIDEGROOM drifts across the yard.]

A Lad [comes from behind the house]

Wait a bit, girls! Things’ll soon be lively!
Here comes Peer Gynt.

The Smith [who has just come up]

Who invited him?

The Master-cook

No one.

[Goes towards the house.]

The Smith [to the girls]

If he should speak to you, never take notice!

A Girl [to the others]. No, we’ll pretend that we don’t even see him.

Peer Gynt [comes in heated and full of animation, stops right in front of the group, and claps his hands]

Which is the liveliest girl of the lot of you?

A Girl [as he approaches her]

I am not.

Another [similarly]

I am not.

A Third

No; nor I either.

Peer [to a fourth]

You come along, then, for want of a better.

The Girl

Haven’t got time.

Peer [to a fifth]

Well then, you!

The Girl [going]

I’m for home.

Peer

To-night? are you utterly out of your senses?

The Smith [after a moment, in a low voice]

See, Peer, she’s taken a greybeard for partner.

Peer [turns sharply to an elderly man]

Where are the unbespoke girls?

The Man

Find them out.

[Goes away from him.]

[PEER GYNT has suddenly become subdued. He glances shyly and furtively at the group. All look at him, but no one speaks. He approaches other groups. Wherever he goes there is silence; when he moves away, they look after him and smile.]

Peer [to himself]

Mocking looks; needle-keen whispers and smiles.
They grate like a sawblade under the file!

[He slinks along close to the fence. SOLVEIG, leading little HELGA by the hand, comes into the yard, along with her PARENTS.]

A Man [to another, close to PEER GYNT]

Look, here are the new folk.

The Other

The ones from the west?

The First Man

Ay, the people from Hedal.

The Other

Ah yes, so they are.

Peer [places himself in the path of the new-comers, points to SOLVEIG, and asks the FATHER:]

May I dance with your daughter?

The Father [quietly]

You may so; but first
we must go to the farm-house and greet the good people.

[They go in.]

The Master-cook [to PEER GYNT, offering him drink]

Since you are here, you’d best take a pull at the liquor.

Peer [looking fixedly after the new-comers]

Thanks; I’m for dancing; I am not athirst.

[The MASTER–COOK goes away from him. PEER GYNT gazes towards the house and laughs.]

How fair! Did ever you see the like?
Looked down at her shoes and her snow-white-apron —!
And then she held on to her mother’s skirt-folds,
and carried a psalm-book wrapped up in a kerchief —!
I must look at that girl.

[Going into the house.]

A Lad [coming out of the house, with several others]

Are you off so soon, Peer,
from the dance?

Peer

No, no.

The Lad

Then you’re heading amiss!

[Takes hold of his shoulder to turn him round.]

Peer

Let me pass!

The Lad

I believe you’re afraid of the smith.

Peer

I afraid!

The Lad

You remember what happened at Lunde?

[They go off, laughing, to the dancing-green.]

Solveig [in the doorway of the house]

Are you not the lad that was wanting to dance?

Peer

Of course it was me; don’t you know me again?

[Takes her hand.]

Come, then!

Solveig

We mustn’t go far, mother said.

Peer

Mother said! Mother said! Were you born yesterday?

Solveig

Now you’re laughing —!

Peer

Why sure, you are almost a child.
Are you grown up?

Solveig

I read with the pastor last spring.

Peer

Tell me your name, lass, and then we’ll talk easier.

Solveig

My name is Solveig. And what are you called?

Peer

Peer Gynt.

Solveig [withdrawing her hand]

Oh heaven!

Peer

Why, what is it now?

Solveig

My garter is loose; I must tie it up tighter.

[Goes away from him.]

The Bridegroom [pulling at his MOTHER’S gown]

Mother, she will not —!

His Mother

She will not? What?

The Bridegroom

She won’t, mother —

His Mother

What?

The Bridegroom

Unlock the door.

His Father [angrily, below his breath]

Oh, you’re only fit to be tied in a stall!

His Mother

Don’t scold him. Poor dear, he’ll be all right yet.

[They move away.]

A Lad [coming with a whole crowd of others from the dancing-green]

Peer, have some brandy?

Peer

No.

The Lad

Only a drain?

Peer [looking darkly at him]

Got any?

The Lad

Well, I won’t say but I have.

[Pulls out a pocket-flask and drinks.]

Ah! How it stings your throat! — Well?

Peer [Drinks.]

Let me try it.

Another Lad

Now you must try mine as well, you know.

Peer

No!

The Lad

Oh, nonsense; now don’t be a fool.
Take a pull, Peer!

Peer

Well then, give me a drop.

[Drinks again.]

A Girl [half aloud]

Come, let’s be going.

Peer

Afraid of me, wench?

A Third Lad

Who isn’t afraid of you?

A Fourth

At Lunde
you showed us clearly what tricks you could play.

Peer

I can do more than that, when once I get started!

The First Lad [whispering]

Now he’s getting into swing!

Several Others [forming a circle around him]

Tell away! Tell away!
What can you —?

Peer

To-morrow —!

Others

No, now, to-night!

A Girl

Can you conjure, Peer?

Peer

I can call up the devil!

A Man

My grandam could do that before I was born!

Peer

Liar! What I can do, that no one else can.
I one day conjured him into a nut.
It was worm-bored, you see!

Several [laughing]

Ay, that’s easily guessed!

Peer

He cursed, and he wept, and he wanted to bribe me
with all sorts of things —

One Of The Crowd

But he had to go in?

Peer

Of course. I stopped up the hole with a peg.
Hei! If you’d heard him rumbling and grumbling!

A Girl

Only think!

Peer

It was just like a humble-bee buzzing.

The Girl

Have you got him still in the nut?

Peer

Why, no;
by this time that devil has flown on his way.
The grudge the smith bears me is all his doing.

A Lad

Indeed?

Peer

I went to the smithy, and begged
that he would crack that same nutshell for me.
He promised he would! — laid it down on his anvil;
but Aslak, you know, is so heavy of hand; —
for ever swinging that great sledge-hammer —

A Voice From The Crowd

Did he kill the foul fiend?

Peer

He laid on like a man.
But the devil showed fight, and tore off in a flame
through the roof, and shattered the wall asunder.

Several Voices

And the smith —?

Peer

Stood there with his hands all scorched.
And from that day onwards, we’ve never been friends.

[General laughter.]

Some Of The Crowd

That yarn is a good one.

Others

About his best.

Peer

Do you think I am making it up?

A Man

Oh no,
that you’re certainly not; for I’ve heard the most on’t
from my grandfather —

Peer

Liar! It happened to me!

The Man

Yes, like everything else.

Peer [with a fling]

I can ride, I can,
clean through the air, on the bravest of steeds!
Oh, many’s the thing I can do, I tell you!

[Another roar of laughter.]

One Of The Group

Peer, ride through the air a bit!

Many

Do, dear Peer Gynt —!

Peer

You may spare you the trouble of begging so hard.
I will ride like a hurricane over you all!
Every man in the parish shall fall at my feet!

An Elderly Man

Now he is clean off his head.

Another

The dolt!

A Third

Braggart!

A Fourth

Liar!

Peer [threatening them]

Ay, wait till you see!

A Man [half drunk]

Ay, wait; you’ll soon get your jacket dusted!

Others

Your back beaten tender! Your eyes painted blue!

[The crowd disperses, the elder men angry, the younger laughing and jeering.]

The Bridegroom [close to PEER GYNT]

Peer, is it true you can ride through the air?

Peer [shortly]

It’s all true, Mads! You must know I’m a rare one!

The Bridegroom

Then have you got the Invisible Cloak too?

Peer

The Invisible Hat, do you mean? Yes, I have.

[Turns away from him. SOLVEIG crosses the yard, leading little HELGA.]

Peer [goes towards them; his face lights up]

Solveig! Oh, it is well you have come!

[Takes hold of her wrist.]

Now will I swing you round fast and fine!

Solveig

Loose me!

Peer

Wherefore?

Solveig

You are so wild.

Peer

The reindeer is wild, too, when summer is dawning.
Come then, lass; do not be wayward now!

Solveig [withdrawing her arm]

Dare not.

Peer

Wherefore?

Solveig

No, you’ve been drinking.

[Moves off with HELGA.]

Peer

Oh, if I had but my knife-blade driven
clean through the heart of them — one and all!

The Bridegroom [nudging him with his elbow]

Peer, can’t you help me to get at the bride?

Peer [absently]

The bride? Where is she?

The Bridegroom

In the store-house.

Peer

Ah.

The Bridegroom

Oh, dear Peer Gynt, you must try at least!

Peer

No, you must get on without my help.

[A thought strikes him; he says softly but sharply:]

Ingrid! The store-house!

[Goes Up to SOLVEIG.]

Have you thought better on’t?

[SOLVEIG tries to go; he blocks her path.]

You’re ashamed to, because I’ve the look of a tramp.

Solveig [hastily]

No, that you haven’t; that’s not true at all!

Peer

Yes! And I’ve taken a drop as well;
but that was to spite you, because you had hurt me.
Come then!

Solveig

Even if I would now, I daren’t.

Peer

Who are you frightened of?

Solveig

Father, most.

Peer

Father? Ay, ay; he is one of the quiet ones!
One of the godly, eh? — Answer, come!

Solveig

What shall I say?

Peer

Is your father a psalm-singer?
And you and your mother as well, no doubt?
Come, will you speak?

Solveig

Let me go in peace.

Peer

No!

[In a low but sharp and threatening tone.]

I can turn myself into a troll!
I’ll come to your bedside at midnight to-night.
If you should hear some one hissing and spitting,
you mustn’t imagine it’s only the cat.
It’s me, lass! I’ll drain out your blood in a cup,
and your little sister, I’ll eat her up;
ay, you must know I’m a werewolf at night; —
I’ll bite you all over the loins and the back —

[Suddenly changes his tone, and entreats, as if in dread:]

Dance with me, Solveig!

Solveig [looking darkly at him]

Then you were grim.

[Goes into the house.]

The Bridegroom [comes sidling up again]

I’ll give you an ox if you’ll help me!

Peer

Then come!

[They go out behind the house. At the same moment a crowd of men come up from the dancing-green; most of them are drunk. Noise and hubbub. SOLVEIG, HELGA, and their PARENTS appear among a number of elderly people in the doorway.]

The Master-cook [to the SMITH, who is the foremost of the crowd]

Keep peace now!

The Smith [pulling off his jacket]

No, we must fight it out here.
Peer Gynt or I must be taught a lesson.

Some Voices

Ay, let them fight for it!

Others

No, only wrangle!

The Smith

Fists must decide; for the case is past words.

Solveig’s Father

Control yourself, man!

Helga

Will they beat him, mother?

A Lad

Let us rather tease him with all his lies!

Another

Kick him out of the company!

A Third

Spit in his eyes!

A Fourth [to the SMITH]

You’re not backing out, smith?

The Smith [flinging away his jacket]

The jade shall be slaughtered!

Solveig’s Mother [to SOLVEIG]

There, you can see how that windbag is thought of.

Åse [coming up with a stick in her hand]

Is that son of mine here? Now he’s in for a drubbing!
Oh! how heartily I will dang him!

The Smith [rolling up his shirt-sleeves]

That switch is too light for a carcass like his.
The smith will dang him!

Others

Bang him!

The Smith [spits on his hands and nods to ÅSE]

Hang him!

Åse

What? Hang my Peer? Ay, just try if you dare; —
Åse and I, we have teeth and claws! —
Where is he? [Calls across the yard:] Peer!

The Bridegroom [comes running up]

Oh, God’s death on the cross!
Come father, come mother, and —!

His Father

What is the matter?

The Bridegroom

Just fancy, Peer Gynt —!

Åse [screams]

Have they taken his life?

The Bridegroom

No, but Peer Gynt —! Look, there on the hillside —!

The Crowd

With the bride!

Åse [lets her stick sink]

Oh, the beast!

The Smith [as if thunderstruck]

Where the slope rises sheerest
he’s clambering upwards, by God, like a goat!

The Bridegroom [crying]

He’s shouldered her, mother, as I might a pig!

Åse [shaking her fist up at him]

Would God you might fall, and —!

[Screams out in terror.]

Take care of your footing!

The Hegstad Farmer [comes in, bare-headed and white with rage]

I’ll have his life for this bride-rape yet!

Åse

Oh no, God punish me if I let you!

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/i/ibsen/henrik/peer/act1.html

Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:44