Poems by the Way, by William Morris

Knight Aagen and Maiden Else.

Translated from the Danish.

It was the fair knight Aagen
To an isle he went his way,
And plighted troth to Else,
Who was so fair a may.

He plighted troth to Else
All with the ruddy gold,
But or ere that day’s moon came again
Low he lay in the black, black mould.

It was the maiden Else,
She was fulfilled of woe
When she heard how the fair knight Aagen
In the black mould lay alow.

Uprose the fair knight Aagen,
Coffin on back took he,
And he’s away to her bower,
Sore hard as the work might be.

With that same chest on door he smote,
For the lack of flesh and skin;
“O hearken, maiden Else,
And let thy true-love in!”

Then answered maiden Else,
“Never open I my door,
But and if thou namest Jesu’s name
As thou hadst might before.”

“O hearken, maiden Else,
And open thou thy door,
For Jesu’s name I well may name
As I had might before!”

Then uprose maiden Else,
O’er her cheek the salt tears ran,
Nor spared she into her very bower
To welcome that dead man.

O, she’s taken up her comb of gold
And combed adown her hair,
And for every hair she combed adown
There fell a weary tear.

“Hearken thou, knight Aagen,
Hearken, true-love, and tell,
If down-adown in the black, black earth
Thou farest ever well?”

“O whenso thou art joyous,
And the heart is glad in thee,
Then fares it with my coffin
That red roses are with me.

“But whenso thou art sorrowful
And weary is thy mood,
Then all within my coffin
Is it dreadful with dark blood.

“Now is the red cock a-crowing,
To the earth adown must I;
Down to the earth wend all dead folk,
And I wend in company.

“Now is the black cock a-crowing,
To the earth must I adown,
For the gates of Heaven are opening now,
Thereto must I begone.”

Uprose the fair knight Aagen,
Coffin on back took he,
And he’s away to the churchyard now,
Sore hard as the work might be.

But so wrought maiden Else,
Because of her weary mood,
That she followed after own true love
All through the mirk wild wood.

But when the wood was well passed through,
And in the churchyard they were,
Then was the fair knight Aagen
Waxen wan of his golden hair.

And when therefrom they wended
And were the church within,
Then was the fair knight Aagen
Waxen wan of cheek and chin.

“Hearken thou, maiden Else,
Hearken, true-love, to me,
Weep no more for thine own troth-plight,
However it shall be!

“Look thou up to the heavens aloft,
To the little stars and bright,
And thou shalt see how sweetly
It fareth with the night!”

She looked up to the heavens aloft,
To the little stars bright above
The dead man sank into his grave,
Ne’er again she saw her love.

Home then went maiden Else,
Mid sorrow manifold,
And ere that night’s moon came again
She lay alow in the mould.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/m/morris/william/m87pb/chapter53.html

Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07