[The enclosure on Lady Kirsten’s estate. To the right is seen the main building with an opening in the gable; neither windows nor doors are visible. Further towards the back of the stage on the same side a small log church and a churchyard. On the left side a storehouse and other out-buildings. On both sides in the foreground simple benches of stone. It is afternoon.]
[LADY KIRSTEN. Servants and Maids occupied with preparations for the wedding.]
Lady kirsten. Let there be no lack of food or drink.
Lady kirsten. [To herself.] Hard have I labored and struggled
to bring things to this point; but now I shall give a feast that
shall be heralded far and wide.
Lady kirsten. [To the servants.] Be sure to see that on the
banquet table — yet no, I shall attend to that myself. The wine
shall be poured into the silver flagons; the large drinking horns
shall be filled with the Italian cider; the ale is for the
servants only, and likewise the homebrewed mead; — and listen, be
sure to see that there are enough yellow candles in the church;
the bridal party are not to go to the altar until late in the
evening, and with red lights shall they be escorted on their way
from the banquet hall to the church. Go now, all of you, and see
that you remember, every one of you, the things I have told you.
[The people go.]
Lady kirsten. God knows this wedding is costing me more than I
well can bear; but Ingeborg brings with her a good dowry and
besides — Oh, well, Arne I shall no doubt be able to manage and
rule as I see fit, if he is first —
[Looks out to the right.]
Lady kirsten. There comes Olaf! If only I knew that he —
[LADY KIRSTEN. OLAF comes from the house in festive garb; he is pale and thoughtful.]
Olaf. [To himself.] Yesterday and today! There is but a
midsummer night between the two, and yet it seems to me that both
autumn and winter have overtaken my soul since the time I
wandered up there on the mountain side — with her, with Alfhild!
Olaf. [Notices Lady Kirsten.] Alas, my dear mother, are you
Lady kirsten. Quite so, my son! I like to see you dressed in
gold and in silk. Now one can see by your dress who it is that
is bridegroom tonight. I see you have rested.
Olaf. I have slept, but little have I rested; for all the while
I was dreaming.
Lady kirsten. A bridegroom must dream — that is an ancient
Olaf. My fairest dream is ended; let us not think any longer
Lady kirsten. [Changing the subject.] We shall have a merry
time today, I think.
Olaf. It does not appear that heaven is pleased with my wedding
Lady kirsten. How so?
Olaf. There are indications of a storm. Do you see how heavily
the clouds are gathering in the west?
Lady kirsten. The brighter the festive candles will shine when
you go to the church tonight.
Olaf. [Paces back and forth a few times; at length he stops
before his mother and says.] If I had married a poor man’s
daughter, without family or wealth — tell me, mother, what would
you have done?
Lady kirsten. [Looks at him sharply.] Why do you ask?
Olaf. Answer me first. What would you have done?
Lady kirsten. Cursed you and gone to my grave in sorrow! — But
tell me, why do you ask?
Olaf. Ah, it was only a jest; I little thought of doing so.
Lady kirsten. That I can believe; for you have always held your
family in high honor. But be merry and gay; tomorrow Ingeborg
will sit in there as your wife, and then you will find both peace
Olaf. Peace and happiness. One thing there is lacking.
Lady kirsten. What do you mean?
Olaf. The fairest of flowers which I was to pick asunder and
scatter far to the winds.
Lady kirsten. The silly dream; — think no longer about it.
Olaf. Perhaps it would be best for me if I could forget.
Lady kirsten. In the ladies’ room your betrothed sits with all
her maids; little have you talked with her today. Do you not
want to go in?
Olaf. [In thought.] Yes, yes! Where is she?
Lady kirsten. In the ladies’ room, as I said.
Olaf. [Lively.] Nothing shall be lacking to her from this day.
Shoes with silver buckles I shall give her; she shall wear
brooches and rings. The withered twigs shall be put away; I
shall give her a golden necklace to wear.
Lady kirsten. Of whom do you speak?
Olaf. Of Alfhild!
Lady kirsten. I was speaking of Ingeborg, your betrothed. Olaf!
Olaf! You make me anxious and worried — so strange are you. I
could really almost believe that she had bewitched you.
Olaf. That she has! Yes, forsooth, mother, I have been
bewitched. I have been in the elf maidens’ play; happy and gay I
was as long as it lasted, but now —. Through long, long years I
shall be weighed down with woe as often as I call it to mind.
Lady kirsten. If she were a witch, the stake would surely be
hers; but she is a crafty and wily woman who has lured you on
with her fair speech.
Olaf. She is pure as the mother of God herself!
Lady kirsten. Yes, yes, but beware! Remember, whatever she is,
tomorrow you are wed; it would be both sin and shame to you if
you longer took notice of her.
Olaf. I realize it, mother, full well!
Lady kirsten. And Ingeborg, whom you have betrothed and who
loves you, yes, Olaf! loves you with all her heart — the
punishment of heaven would be visited on you, in case you —
Olaf. True, true!
Lady kirsten. I will not speak of our own circumstances; but you
can easily see that Arne’s daughter can help us greatly in one
thing or another; our affairs have been going from bad to worse,
and if the harvest should fail this year I should not in the
least be surprised if we had to take up the beggar’s staff.
Olaf. Yes, I know it.
Lady kirsten. With Arne’s money we can mend everything; an
honorable place you will win for yourself among the king’s men.
Think this carefully over; if you have promised Alfhild more than
you can fulfil — and I seem to notice in her something like that
in spite of her quiet demeanor — why, speak with her about it.
Tell her — well, tell her anything you please; empty-handed she
shall not go away from here — that you can freely promise. See,
here she comes! Olaf, my son! think of your betrothed and your
noble race, think of your old mother who would have to go to her
grave in shame, in case — be a man, Olaf! Now I go in to look
after the banqueting table.
[Goes into the house.]
Olaf. [Gazes out to the right.]
As merry she is as the youthful roe,
As it plays with no thought of the morrow;
But soon will she wring her small hands in woe,
And suffer in anguish and sorrow!
Soon must I destroy the faith in her heart,
And waken her out of her dreams.
And then — yes, then we forever must part.
Poor Alfhild! So bitter your fate to me seems!
What cared I for honor, what cared I for power,
What mattered my race when I wandered with you!
It seemed in your eyes was reflected a flower,
More precious than any the world ever knew!
Forgotten I had both struggle and strife,
But since I again came home to this life,
Since at table I sat in my father’s hall,
Since I went to answer my mother’s call —
Olaf. [Abruptly.] ’Tis true from a noble race I am born,
And Alfhild lives up in the mountains forlorn.
In her I should find but a constant sorrow.
I must tell her — yet, no, I can’t let her know!
Yet truly — I must — I must ere the morrow,
She must hear what to me is the bitterest woe!
[OLAF. ALFHILD from the church.]
Alfhild. [Runs eagerly to meet him.]
Olaf! Olaf! You have led me to the land
Where I walk amid flowers, where before I trod on sand.
In truth you have here so pleasant an isle,
O here I can live without worry or guile!
So much I would question, so little I know,
The riddles must you explain as we go. —
Is it green here always in summer and spring?
Alfhild. Your answer delay!
You see yon house with its spire and wing?
There went I this morning to play;
Without there was joy, there was laughter and mirth;
Within it was still as nowhere on earth.
I stepped through the door, I saw a great hall,
Within was a peace that was fair;
A dawn softly breaking pervaded it all,
And people were kneeling in prayer.
But high from above them a virgin looked down,
She sailed upon clouds of white,
Her head shone forth like a crimson crown,
Like heaven when dawns the light.
Calm was her face, a blue dress she wore,
A beautiful elf in her arms she bore,
And round about her played angels of love,
That laughed when they saw me below in the door
From their place in the heavens above!
Olaf. [Aside.] Alas! I have wrought so woeful a play,
Soon will her sorrow begin!
Alfhild. O, tell me, Olaf! what people are they
Who live in the house I was in?
Olaf. Each one who like you is good and kind,
Each one who is child-like in spirit and mind.
’Tis the church, God’s house — it belongs to him.
Alfhild. The mighty father! ’Tis only your whim!
His house is high over the stars in the sky,
Where the white swan sails undefiled,
So high ’tis beyond any mortal eye
Save that of the dreaming child! —
The church that you spoke of! So then it is there
We shall ride in festal procession,
As bridegroom and bride!
Olaf. [Aside.] No longer I dare
Delay my wretched confession!
Alfhild. Ah, each of your words has burned like a coal,
And deep its mark it has left on my soul!
My bosom is filled with joy and with song;
Wherever I wander in field or at home,
They shine on my path, they light me along —
Like stars at night in the heavenly dome!
You said the whole world would be asked to the feast,
And foremost should ride the minstrel and priest,
Knights should go forward and guide my steed,
And roses should blossom on every side,
Each lily we met should bow like a weed,
The flowers should curtsy before the bride!
Olaf. Have I said —
ALFHILD. Olaf, you surely recall!
All things have followed your every desire;
The lindens stand yonder so green and so tall;
The roses are decked in their festive attire
And dance like elves at an elfen ball.
Never did heaven’s illumining eye
So radiantly shine as here from the sky;
Never before sang the birds so sweet!
They sing the bride and the bridegroom to greet! —
O, you — you make me so happy and blessed,
Both heaven and earth could I hold to my breast!
Nowhere can so humble a weed be found
Which under my feet I could crush and destroy,
Nowhere a creature so deep in the ground,
But I would share in its sorrow and joy!
My bosom is filled with the glory of spring;
It surges and roars like a wood in a storm!
Olaf. [Aside.] And soon this youthful and lovely form
Shall writhe beneath sorrow’s tormenting sting!
Alfhild. O, glorious life!
[She kneels with upstretched arms.]
Alfhild. O father of love,
In the distant heaven! Had I but the power,
The tongues of the angels above,
Thy praise I should sing every hour;
I cannot, for I am of little worth,
I can only bow down before you to the earth —
O thanks, thou unspeakable! Glory and praise
For all I can here understand of thy ways!
Alfhild. Yes, lovely is life in its every breath,
As lovely almost as the journey to death!
Olaf. In the grave you think it is pleasant to lie?
Alfhild. I know not your meaning, but I brooded long.
And asked of my father “What means it to die?”
In answer thereto he sang me a song:
“When the child of man is weighted with grief
And longs to be rocked to rest,
Then comes there an elf with wings of white
And frees its spirit oppressed.
“The little elf with his wings of white
Makes ready a downy bed,
Of lilies he weaves the linen sheets
And pillows of roses red.
“Away on the pillows he carries the child,
He carries it safe on his arm,
He takes it to heaven aloft on a cloud
Away from all earthly harm.
“And cherubs there are in the heaven above
(I tell what is true to you);
They strew the pillows of rosy red
With pearls of white and of blue.
“Then wakens the little earthly child,
It wakens to heavenly mirth —
But all that happiness, all that joy
There’s no one that knows here on earth.”
Olaf. ’Twere better, alas! had you never come here,
Had you lived in the mountain your peaceful life.
Your joy like a weed will wither and sear,
Your faith will be killed —
Alfhild. But as Olaf’s wife
I am strong as the torrent and have no fear!
With you by my side let happen what may,
With you I will laugh and suffer and languish.
Alfhild. [Listening.] Hush, Olaf! You hear that mournful lay,
It sounds like a song of the bitterest anguish!
Chorus of pallbearers. [Softly outside to the right.]
The little child we carry
With sorrow to the grave,
Beneath the mould we bury
What soon the worms will crave.
Hard is this lot and dreary:
With mournful dirge and sigh
To carry sad and weary
The child where it shall lie!
Alfhild. [Uncertain and anxious.]
What is it, Olaf? What is it, I say?
Olaf. A child that death is bearing away,
A mother and children weep on the way.
Alfhild. Death! Then where are the pillows of red,
The lily-white linen, and where is the dead?
Olaf. I see no pillows of red or of gray,
But only the dark black boards of the bier;
And thereon the dead sleeps on shavings and hay.
Alfhild. On shavings and hay?
Olaf. That is all there is here!
Alfhild. And where is the elf who bears on his arm
The child far away from all earthly harm?
Olaf. I see but a mother whose heart will break,
And little children who follow the wake.
Alfhild. And where are the pearls of blue and of white,
That the angels strew in the heaven of light?
Olaf. I see only this — they weep many a tear
As they stand at the side of the bier.
Alfhild. And where is the home, the house of God,
Where the dead dream only of mirth?
Olaf. Behold! Now they place him beneath the sod
And cover him over with earth.
Alfhild. [Quiet and thoughtful, after a pause.]
Not so was death in the song — not so.
Olaf. ’Tis true; but no such joy and pleasure
Has any one felt here below. —
Have you never heard of the mountain king’s treasure,
Which night after night like gold would glow;
But if you would seize the gold in your hand,
You nothing would find save gravel and sand;
And listen, Alfhild! it often is true
That life turns out in the selfsame way;
Approach not too near, it may happen to you,
That you burn your fingers some day.
’Tis true it may shine like a heavenly star,
But only when seen from afar.
[He becomes aware of Lady Kirsten off the stage to the right.]
Olaf. My mother — she’ll tell you — I shall depart.
The angels above send their peace to your heart!
[He goes towards the house but is stopped by LADY KIRSTEN. — The sky becomes overcast with dark clouds; the wind begins to howl in the tree-tops. — ALFHILD stands absorbed in deep thought.]
[The Preceding. LADY KIRSTEN.]
Lady kirsten. [Softly.] Not so, my son, you have told her —?
Olaf. All I was able to say I have said. Now you tell her the
rest, and then, mother, let me never, never see her again.
[He casts a glance at ALFHILD and goes out past the house.]
Lady kirsten. That folly will soon be burned out of his
soul, if —
Lady kirsten. [As if she suddenly has an idea.] But in case
I— Ah, if that could succeed, then would he be cured — that I can
promise. But Alfhild —? Well, nevertheless, it must be
Alfhild. [To herself.]
So then there is here too anguish and woe;
Well, so let it be; I shall never despair.
The sorrow of earth I never need know,
Still Olaf is good and fair!
Lady kirsten. [Approaches.] It seems to me that gloomy thoughts
are weighing upon your mind.
Alfhild. Yes, yes, the result of things I have recently heard.
Lady kirsten. From Olaf?
Alfhild. Certainly from Olaf; he has told me —
Lady kirsten. I know, Alfhild. I know what he has said.
Lady kirsten. [Aside.] He has mentioned to her his wedding, I
Lady kirsten. [Aloud.] This very night it is to be held.
Alfhild. What is to be held?
Lady kirsten. The wedding!
Alfhild. [Eagerly.] Oh, yes, that I know!
Lady kirsten. You know it and do not take it more to your heart
Alfhild. No. Why should I take it to heart?
Lady kirsten. [Aside.] There is something she is meditating — I
see that clearly.
Lady kirsten. [Aloud.] Well, so much the better for all of us.
But tell me, when the wedding is over, what then will you do?
Alfhild. I? I have little thought of that.
Lady kirsten. I mean, have you in mind to remain here or to go
Alfhild. [Looks at her, surprised.] I have in mind to remain!
Lady kirsten. [Aside.] There we have it; she thinks to hold him
in her wiles even after he is wed. Well, we shall see about
Lady kirsten. [Aloud.] Alfhild! I wish you every possible
good, and if you dared rely on my —
Alfhild. Yes, that I certainly dare!
Lady kirsten. Well and good; then you will let me take upon
myself your happiness. I shall take charge of you as best I know
how, and if you but give me your word you shall this very night
go to the church as a bride.
Alfhild. Yes, I know that.
Lady kirsten. [Surprised.] You know that! Who has told you?
Alfhild. Olaf himself said so.
Lady kirsten. [Aside.] Has Olaf —? Yes, forsooth, he has had
the same idea that I had, to marry her off in order to be rid of
her. Or perhaps in order to — well, no matter — when she is
finally married, when Olaf on his side is a married man, then —
Lady kirsten. [Aloud.] Well and good, Alfhild! If Olaf has
told you our intention for you, then it is not necessary for me
to — But do you now hasten, go in there in the store house; there
you will find my own wedding gown; that you shall wear!
Alfhild. [With childlike joy.] Shall I! Your own wedding gown!
Lady kirsten. Do as I say. Go in there and dress yourself as
splendidly as you please.
Alfhild. And do I also get a bridal crown?
Lady kirsten. Certainly! A bridal crown and silver rings and
golden bracelet. You will find plenty of them in the coffers and
Alfhild. Silver rings and golden bracelets!
Lady kirsten. Go, go, and hurry as fast as you can.
Alfhild. O, I shall not be long about it.
[Claps her hands.]
Alfhild. I shall have silver rings and golden bracelets!
[She runs out to the left.]
[LADY KIRSTEN alone.]
Lady kirsten. The evil and cursed woman! Happy and gay she is
though she knows that Olaf is to wed another. But that very fact
will serve me well; it will go easier than I had thought. She
looks as innocent as a child, and yet she can agree to take him
as a husband whom I first pick out for her. And I who thought
that she truly loved Olaf! If he is still ignorant of her real
spirit, he shall soon learn. He shall know her to the core, he
shall know how she has bewitched and lured him, and then, well,
then she is no longer dangerous.
Lady kirsten. [Smiling.] Well, well! Olaf thought of the same
way of saving himself that I did; so good-natured I had never
imagined him. — But where shall we find the man who is willing
to — well, she is pretty, and I shall not mind a little silver and
even a bit of land. Has Olaf already spoken to some one? That
is hardly thinkable! — Well, then I shall see to that. I have
servants enough on the estate and —
[Looks out to the right.]
Lady kirsten. Hemming! what if I should try him! But he saw
them together in the mountain yesterday; he must surely know
there is something between the two. But none the less — he is a
humble serving-man, and poor besides, and weak of mind — we shall
see, we shall see!
[LADY KIRSTEN. HEMMING from the right.]
Hemming. [To himself.] Nowhere is Ingeborg to be found; she
will bring me to my grave — that is certain. Yesterday she was
gracious to me; she gave me her ring; but then she took it away
from me again; and today she will not so much as look at me as I
Lady kirsten. [Slowly, as she approaches.] A little cautious I
Lady kirsten. [Aloud.] Ah, Hemming, is it you? You prefer to
wander alone, I see; you keep yourself away from the servants and
maids; when I see such things I realize very well that you do so
not without reason.
Hemming. Why, my noble lady! what should —
Lady kirsten. Yes, Hemming! there is something that you keep all
to yourself as you go about; you are not very cheerful!
Hemming. [Disconcerted.] Not cheerful? I?
Lady kirsten. [Smiling.] There is here today a young and
beautiful girl whom you fancy very much.
HEMMING. All saints!
Lady kirsten. And she in turn has a fancy for you.
HEMMING. Me — Whom? I do not know whom you mean.
Lady kirsten. Come, Hemming, do not speak so; before me you need
not feel ashamed. Yes, yes, I see clearly, I tell you.
Hemming. [Aside.] Heaven! she must have noticed by Ingeborg’s
manner that —
Lady kirsten. I have seen that the wedding is but little joy to
you. The trip to the church you care little about, since you
would yourself like to go as a groom, yet cannot see your way
Hemming. [In the greatest agitation.] Alas, Lady Kirsten! my
noble, august lady! be not offended!
Lady kirsten. [Surprised.] I? And why should I be offended?
Hemming. [Continuing.] I have struggled and fought against this
unhappy love as long as I have been able, and I honestly believe
she has done the same.
Lady kirsten. She? Has she then told you that she cares for
Hemming. Yes, almost!
Lady kirsten. Well and good; then you talked about it together?
Hemming. Yes — but only once, only one single time, I swear.
Lady kirsten. Once or ten times, it is all the same to me.
Lady kirsten. [Aside.] Then they are already agreed; it was
certainly a stroke of luck that I came upon Hemming; now I am not
at all surprised that Alfhild was so willing to go to the altar.
Lady kirsten. [Aloud.] Hemming! I am much indebted to you for
finding my son again and for otherwise being of help to me; now I
shall make requital — I shall to the limit of my power stand by
you in the matter we just spoke of.
Hemming. [Overcome with joy.] You! You will! Lady Kirsten!
Alas, great God and holy saints! I hardly dare believe it.
Lady kirsten. [Stops.] But Lord Olaf, your son! What do you
think he will say?
Lady kirsten. He will not interpose any objection — I shall see
Hemming. [Unsuspecting.] Yes, truly, it would be best for him
too, for I know she cares little for him.
Lady kirsten. [Smiling.] That I have noticed, Hemming!
Hemming. Have you! Well, you are so clever, Lady Kirsten! And
I who thought that I was the only one who had noticed it.
Hemming. [Doubtfully.] Do you think that Lord Arne will give
Lady kirsten. Your master? I shall know how to talk him into
it — that will not be so difficult.
Hemming. You think so? Alas, but I am so poor a man.
Lady kirsten. I shall remedy that all right, in case Lord Arne
is not prepared to do so.
Hemming. Thanks, thanks, Lady Kirsten! Heaven reward you for
Lady kirsten. But you will keep this that we have been speaking
of to yourself.
Hemming. That I promise.
Lady kirsten. Then hold yourself in readiness; the guests will
assemble out here in a little while now, and do you be on hand.
[She goes over to the door of the store house and looks for
Hemming. [To himself.] No, this is to me like a strange
illusive dream. Ingeborg and I — we are to belong to
each other! Ah, can it be true? So high I never dared let
my thoughts ascend; — it seemed to me in the morning that
I had been guilty of the greatest presumption if during
the night I had dreamed about it. — Hm! I know very
well of course that it is not for my sake that Lady Kirsten
goes to all this trouble. She has something up her sleeve;
she thinks it necessary to break the agreement with Lord
Arne, and now that she has noticed that Ingeborg cares for
me she will use that as an excuse. Well, I have so often
given my master warning, but he will never believe me.
Arne. [Calls outside to the left.] Hemming! Hemming!
Lady kirsten. [Comes forward.] Your master calls! Go now!
After a while I shall speak to him; he will agree. Believe me,
he shall follow his page to the church in the same hour that he
leads his daughter thither.
Hemming. Thanks, thanks, Lady Kirsten! Truly, you confer a
blessing on us all.
[He goes out to the left.]
Lady kirsten. [To herself.] So young she is and yet so cunning;
she has been coquetting with Hemming all the while she made my
son believe that — Well and good, he shall soon learn to know her
arts. But first I must see Lord Arne; he thinks highly of
Hemming and would reluctantly part with him; it seemed too that
Hemming feared that something like that might stand in the way;
but they can easily remain as they are even if Hemming
marries. — Hemming sees more clearly in the affair than I had
expected. What will Olaf say, he asked; he has evidently noticed
that my son still thinks of Alfhild. Well, let him; if he takes
her he will say nothing, and when Alfhild is married — I know
Olaf; he has always wanted to stand in high honor among the men
of the village, and for that reason he will certainly — yes, yes,
it must, it shall succeed.
[She goes out to the right.]
[HEMMING comes from the left with a bowl of ale hidden under his coat. ARNE follows him cautiously, looking about.]
Arne. Is there anyone?
Hemming. No, come along, master.
Arne. But it seemed to me I heard Lady Kirsten.
Hemming. She is gone now, come along!
Arne. [Sits down on the bench to the left.] Hemming! it is
well that the wedding is to be held tonight. Tomorrow I go home;
yes, that I will. Not a day longer will I remain in Lady
Hemming. Why, master! is there enmity again between you?
Arne. Is it not enough, do you think, that she and all her
superior relatives look down on me; at supper they laughed and
jested among themselves because I could not bring myself to eat
of all those ungodly, outlandish dishes. And what was it that we
got to drink? Sweet wine and cider that will stay in my stomach
for eight days. No, the good old homebrewed ale for me.
[Drinks and adds softly and bitterly.]
Arne. Of this I had sent the wretched woman three full barrels.
And what has she done? Thrown it to her servants, and here I
must steal myself a drink — yes, Hemming! steal myself a drink of
my own ale, that they may not revile me as a coarse peasant, who
doesn’t understand the more refined drinks.
Hemming. Well, master! I gave you warning.
Arne. Ah — gave me warning! You are stupid, Hemming! You think
I haven’t noticed it myself; but wait, just wait!
Arne. [Flaring up.] To place my good nourishing ale before the
house servants, as though it were not worthy to be put on the
table of a lord. —
Hemming. Yes, Lady Kirsten treats you ill, that is certain.
Arne. [Hands him the bowl.] Come, sit down and drink!
Arne. [HEMMING sits down.] Listen, Hemming! I could wish we
were home again.
Hemming. Well, I have no fancy for this festive home.
Arne. No, my old room at Guldvik for me; — when we sat there of
an evening and played chess with the ale jug between us —
Hemming. The while Mistress Ingeborg sat at the loom and
embroidered roses and all sorts of flowers in the linen —
Arne. And sang all the time so merrily that it seemed to me that
I became young and active again. Yes, Hemming! when the wedding
is over, we shall go back and live our old ways again.
Hemming. But then there will be no one who works the loom and
sings merry lays the while.
Arne. No, that is true enough; Ingeborg will then be gone. It
will be a little hard on me; she is wild and self-willed, but I
shall miss her nevertheless — miss her greatly.
Arne. [Considers.] Now and then I suppose I could visit her
here — But no, that I will not! Here they laugh at me, they
whisper behind my back — I see it well enough.
Hemming. But in case you wished, it could still be changed.
Arne. Changed! You are stupid, Hemming! Always you talk about
Arne. [Hands him the bowl.] Come, drink, it will do you good.
Changed; no, no, it shall never be changed! It was evil spirits
who put into my head the idea of marrying into Lady Kirsten’s
family. But now it is done; the superior kinsmen will have to
behave as they please, but my own relatives and friends shall not
laugh at me — if I have given my word, I shall keep it too.
Arne. [Disheartened.] If I only knew that Olaf would be kind to
her; I shall ask him to —.
Arne. [Vehemently.] He shall be kind, else I shall come
and beat him with my old fists.
Hemming. Yes, it is well that you keep your eye on her, for Olaf
cares little for her, I do believe.
Arne. So, you think so?
Hemming. Do you remember Alfhild, the poor girl, who yesterday
followed us down from the mountain?
Arne. Indeed I do. She is pretty!
Hemming. [Rises.] So thinks Olaf, too.
Arne. What does that mean?
Hemming. Olaf loves her! ’Tis many a time he visited her up
there; — what Lady Kirsten has told you, you must never believe.
Arne. And what you blab about I believe still less. You are
provoked with Ingeborg because at times she makes fun of you, and
therefore you begrudge her this attractive marriage; yes, yes, I
know you too well.
Hemming. Why, master! you could believe that —
Arne. Make me believe that Olaf Liljekrans loves that beggar
woman! A noble, high-born lord such as he! It is almost as if
one were to say that Ingeborg, my daughter, had a fancy for you.
Hemming. [Embarrassed.] For me — how could you ever imagine —
Arne. No, I don’t imagine! But the one is as unreasonable as
the other. Come, drink! and don’t talk any more such nonsense.
Arne. [Rises.] There is Lady Kirsten with the guests. What’s
going to happen now?
Hemming. They are all to assemble out here; they will then
follow the bride and bridegroom to the banquet-table and thence
to the church.
Arne. Aye, what a cursed custom! To the church at night! Is
then marriage a work of darkness?
[The Preceding. LADY KIRSTEN, OLAF, INGEBORG, GUESTS, and SERVANTS and MAIDS enter gradually from the several sides.]
Lady kirsten. [To herself.] I have not seen Olaf alone; but
when I think it over, it is probably best that he know nothing
about it until it is all over.
Lady kirsten. [Softly, to HEMMING, who has been whispering with
INGEBORG.] Well, Hemming! How do you think your master is
Hemming. Alas, Lady Kirsten! I have but little hope unless you
lend your aid.
Lady kirsten. Aye, we’ll manage it all right.
[She mingles with the GUESTS.]
Ingeborg. [Softly, to HEMMING.] What do you mean? What blessed
hope is it you are speaking of?
Hemming. Alas, I hardly dare believe it myself; but Lady Kirsten
means well by us. She will soon show you that —
Ingeborg. Hush! they are approaching.
Olaf. [In an undertone.] Tell me, mother! how goes it with her?
Lady kirsten. Well enough, as I knew before.
Olaf. Then she knows how to comfort herself?
Lady kirsten. [Smiling.] It seems so. Only wait! This very
evening you shall know for certain.
Olaf. What do you mean?
Lady kirsten. I mean that she is a sly witch. All her fair
words have been deceitful wiles.
Olaf. No, no, mother!
Lady kirsten. That we shall see! Alfhild is happy and gay — so
much I know.
Olaf. It were well for me if she were!
Lady kirsten. [Loudly and clearly.] Lord Arne of Guldvik! Now
is the hour come at length which we have all, I imagine, been
looking forward to.
Hemming. [Aside.] Now it begins!
Lady kirsten. Soon will the church bestow its blessing on our
children and unite them in a long and loving union.
Hemming. [Aside, startled.] What now?
Lady kirsten. The terms we have already agreed upon. But I
suggest that we here once again seal them with hand and word.
Hemming. [As before.] Heaven and earth! Is she trying to
Arne. That is not necessary; I stand by my word like an
Lady kirsten. That I well know, Lord Arne! but it will take but
a moment. First of all, there shall be an end for all time to
every quarrel and dispute between our families — and as for the
damages and injuries which our old disagreements have caused on
either side, no one shall demand compensation for them; each must
manage them as best he knows how. We promise that, do we not?
Arne. That we promise!
[General shaking of hands among the relatives of the bridal
Hemming. [Softly.] Curses upon you; you lied to me shamefully!
Lady kirsten. Then we mention again, what we are already agreed
upon, that the boundary line between Lord Arne’s domains and mine
shall be moved as far in upon his land as good and impartial men
may judge to be fitting and just.
Arne. Yes, yes, I suppose it must be so!
Lady kirsten. That we promise, then?
The guests. That we promise!
[Shaking of hands as before.]
Lady kirsten. Finally, Lord Arne shall give in the form of a
dowry to his daughter as much silver, linen, and other
furnishings as were named and agreed upon at the betrothal feast,
all of which shall here be placed in my home from the day
Mistress Ingeborg moves herein as my son’s lawful wife, which is
tonight. On that we are agreed?
The guests. That we solemnly promise!
[Shaking of hands.]
Lady kirsten. Then let the bride and bridegroom clasp hands and
go to the banquet-table and thence to the church.
Arne. [Aside.] Ah, Hemming can now see whether Lady Kirsten
Hemming. [Softly.] O, then it is all over for me; a fool I was
to depend on her.
Lady kirsten. But on this joyful day it is fitting that we make
as many as possible happy. And therefore I have a request to
make, Lord Arne!
Arne. Speak forth! If I can I shall gladly comply.
Hemming. [Aside.] What does she purpose now?
Lady kirsten. There is still a young couple who would like to go
to the altar this evening; from what I hear, they are agreed
between themselves. The bride I shall take care of, but the
bridegroom you must assist; it is Hemming, your page, and
Ingeborg. [With a cry.] Hemming!
Olaf. [Likewise.] Alfhild!
Hemming. O, woe is me! Now I understand —
The guests. [At the same time.] Hemming and Alfhild! The
[Laughter and whispering.]
Olaf. Alfhild! You will marry her off to — No, no, it shall not
be! Never, never!
Lady kirsten. Be still! — Olaf, my son; be still, I beg you!
Arne. [To himself.] What’s this! Yes, truly, then Hemming was
right; there is something between Olaf and Alfhild.
Arne. [Whispering.] Aye, Lady Kirsten! I see your scheme. Now
I know why Olaf wandered three days in the mountain, and now you
intend to make use of Hemming to be rid of her. Ha, ha!
Lady kirsten. [With forced composure.] Lord Arne! how can you
believe such a thing?
Arne. [In a low tone.] O, I see clearly! Now I should think I
had very good reason to break the agreement.
Lady kirsten. [Softly and frightened.] Break the agreement! I
beg of you! Will you put us all to shame?
[They talk together softly.]
Hemming. [To INGEBORG, with whom he has in the meantime been
whispering.] That is all there is to it, I swear. Lady Kirsten
and I have not understood each other.
Ingeborg. Well, then decline! You shall! I command you.
Hemming. No, no! I dare not; she will then see that it was you
I was thinking of.
Ingeborg. Good; then I shall.
Ingeborg. [Aloud.] Hemming shall not go to the altar with
Alfhild; — he is too good to marry another man’s darling!
Olaf. [With a cry.] For shame!
The guests. Darling!
Arne. [To INGEBORG.] What are you saying?
Lady kirsten. Heaven protect us!
Olaf. Cursed be my soul! She is put to shame!
Ingeborg. Yes, loudly I proclaim it: she is another man’s
darling. Let him gainsay it who dares.
Arne. [Aside.] What is the matter with her?
Lady kirsten. [Softly.] So that’s the way it is! She
then — she it is who cares for Hemming!
Lady kirsten. [Softly and clearly, to ARNE.] Do you now intend
to break the agreement? You can now see for yourself from your
daughter’s conduct what reason I had to get Hemming married!
Arne. [Disconcerted.] My daughter! Could you imagine that
Lady kirsten. You need not pretend! Ingeborg has a fancy for
your house-carl; now I should think I had good reason to break
Arne. Break, break —! What are you thinking of! To bring on me
Lady kirsten. [Mocking.] Yes — otherwise you would do it!
Arne. [Quickly.] No, no, I have reconsidered; it is best we
both keep still!
Lady kirsten. [To herself.] See, now have I won! I know Olaf;
a woman so scorned will never tempt him!
[The Preceding. ALFHILD comes unnoticed out of the storehouse in glittering bridal dress with a crown on her head and her hair flowing.]
Arne. [Aside.] This has been a cursed day for me! O, he is a
cunning dog, this Hemming! He knew that Ingeborg had a fancy for
him; it was therefore so galling to him that Olaf should have
Lady kirsten. [Who has in the meantime regained her composure.]
And now to the festive hall! Hemming we can think of
later. — Olaf, take your bride by the hand!
Arne. [Reluctantly, as he sees INGEBORG whisper to HEMMING.]
Where is the bride? Come, come!
Alfhild and ingeborg. [At the same time, as they each seize one
of OLAF’s hands.] Here I am!
The guests. How — she takes Olaf?
Lady kirsten. [Aside.] So far has he gone, then!
Lady kirsten. [Aloud, to ALFHILD.] You are mistaken! That is
not your bridegroom!
Alfhild. Why, certainly, it is Olaf!
Ingeborg. [Lets go his hand.] If then he has promised her —!
Lady kirsten. [In great agitation.] Olaf is not your
bridegroom, I say! Tell her it yourself, my son!
[OLAF is silent. LADY KIRSTEN’s Kinsmen look at each other
embarrassed. ARNE’s Relatives draw nearer, angry and
Lady kirsten. [With raised voice.] Olaf Liljekrans! Answer
loudly and clearly! You owe it to yourself and to us.
Olaf. [In despair, struggling with himself.] Let it be as you
wish then, mother! Yes, by all the saints! I shall answer.
Alfhild! you are mistaken! I am not your bridegroom.
Olaf. [Pointing to INGEBORG.] There — there stands my bride!
Alfhild. [Withdraws a step or two dumfounded and stares at him.]
She — your —
Olaf. [With rising irritation.] Alfhild! go hence! Go, go, far
into the mountain again; ’twill be best for you. I was sick and
bewildered in mind when I wandered up there! What I have told
you I little remember! I do not know and I do not want to know!
Do you hear — I do not want to! — The golden crown you can keep!
Keep all, both the silver and gold, that you there stand dressed
in. More — yea, tenfold more you shall have. — Well! why do you
stare at me so?
[ALFHILD takes off the crown and the other adornments and places
them at OLAF’s feet as she continues uninterruptedly to stare at
Olaf. Perhaps I pretended to you that you were to be my bride
tonight, perhaps you believed me! Perhaps you thought that Olaf
Liljekrans would marry a — a — what was it you called her?
Olaf. [Stamps with his foot.] Do not stare at me so, I say! I
know you well enough; you have bewitched me. I forgot my family;
I forgot my bride, my betrothed, she who stands there.
Olaf. [Seizes ALFHILD violently by the arm.] Look at her,
Alfhild! Aha, it is she that I love!
[ALFHILD sinks down on her knees and covers her face with her
Olaf. Rise, Alfhild! rise, I say! If you dare to grieve in this
way, I shall kill you! — Why are you not happy? Be merry and wild
as I am! — And the rest of you! Why do you stand so silently,
looking at one another? Laugh — laugh loudly, so that it may
echo around! — Alfhild! Why don’t you answer? Have I not told
you enough! Aha! Then add, you others, a word to what I have
said! Come, say something, you too; Lady Kirsten would like it!
Laugh at her, mock her, trample her under your feet!
Olaf. [With ringing laughter.] Ha, ha, ha! She is Olaf’s
[ALFHILD sinks down to the ground in such a way that she rests
prostrate against the stone bench at the left. A flash of
lightning illuminates the scene and the thunder rolls; during
the following to the close of the act the darkness and the storm
Olaf. See, see! That I like; now do the powers above join in!
Right now will I ride to the church with my bride! Come,
Mistress Ingeborg! But first will we drink — yes, drink, drink!
Bring here the beaker and horn — not in there —! Light the
candles in the church! Let the organ resound; prepare for a
dance — not mournful psalms — fie, fie, no, a dance!
[Thunder and lightning.]
Olaf. Ah, it is rumored in heaven that Olaf Liljekrans is
celebrating his wedding!
[Rushes out to the right.]
Arne. Christ save me! his reason is gone!
Lady kirsten. Ah, have no fear; it will soon pass — I know him.
[Draws ARNE aside with her.]
Arne. [Gently threatening HEMMING in passing.] O, Hemming,
Hemming! You are a sly dog!
[The GUESTS go quietly and gloomily out to the right; the
SERVANTS to the left.]
Ingeborg. [Detains HEMMING.] Hemming! I will not go to church
with Olaf Liljekrans!
Hemming. Alas, what will prevent it?
Ingeborg. If it comes to that, I shall say no — no before the
very altar itself, in the presence of all!
Ingeborg. Hold my horse saddled and ready!
Hemming. What! You will —!
Ingeborg. I will! Now I know for the first time how dear you
are to me — now when I stand in danger of losing you. Go — do as
I say, and let me know when it is time.
[She goes out to the right.]
Hemming. Yes, now am I strong; now I dare venture whatever it
[He goes out to the left.]
[ALFHILD. Later HEMMING, INGEBORG, and others at various times.]
Alfhild. [Remains lying motionless for a long time with her face
concealed in her hands. At length she half raises herself, looks
about bewildered, rises, and speaks with quiet broken laughter.]
One falcon the heavens with plenty may bless,
Another must suffer great want and distress!
One bird wears a coat of feathers so gay,
Another must live contented with gray!
I have known that tears are a balm to the soul,
When the world is nothing but gall;
But now I have suffered such sorrow and dole,
I could laugh myself dead at the thought of it all!
[It is now quite dark. The windows of the church are being
lighted up. ALFHILD goes over to the house and listens while the
following song is heard faintly within.]
Chorus of wedding guests.
Hail to the bridegroom and hail to the bride!
There’s feasting and joy everywhere.
Lord Olaf, all hail! a knight who can ride,
And Ingeborg a lady so fair!
Hemming. [Steals in from the left during the song.] The horse
stands saddled and ready! Now a secret sign to Ingeborg and then
[He goes out to the right to the rear of the house.]
Alfhild. His health from the silvery cup they drink,
The bride sits proudly enthroned at his side;
The candles of wax on the altar now wink,
Soon out to the church they will ride!
Within at the banquet sit host and guest
And laugh as they bandy the merry jest!
But here I must wander alone in the night,
Alas, they have all forsaken me quite!
Olaf! The storm is rending my hair!
The rain beats against me wherever I fare!
Olaf, Olaf! Can you see me thus languish
Beneath this unspeakable torture and anguish?
Alfhild. But rain or storm is a trifling thing,
’Tis as nothing beside the poignant sting
I suffer within my breast. —
My home and my father and all the rest
I left for Olaf, the friend I loved best!
He swore to me then I should be his bride!
And I came — God’s love I felt in my soul;
But he drove me away, he thrust me aside;
So loudly he laughed when I writhed in dole!
While they banquet within, like a dog I must stay
Out here in the storm. Hence — hence I will go!
[Starts to go, but stops.]
Alfhild. But I have not the power, I cannot go away;
Here must I stay and suffer my woe!
’Tis little the flowers out there in the wood
Can tear themselves up from the ground!
And Olaf, whether he be false or good —
About him my roots I have wound.
[Pause. — The HOUSE SERVANTS come with torches from the left.]
Alfhild. [As if seized by an uneasy presentiment.] Whither do
you go? Whither, whither? What is going to happen?
A servant. Why, see, see! It is Alfhild; she is still here!
Alfhild. O, tell me this! What is going to happen — why all
The servant. The wedding! Wouldn’t you care to see it?
Alfhild. [In feverish anxiety.] The wedding! O, no, no! Put
it off, only till tomorrow! If the wedding is held, then is
everything over with me, I well know!
The servant. Postpone it! No, Alfhild! ’Tis not, I’m afraid,
the wish of bridegroom or bride!
Another. Think for a moment! Were you yourself but the bride,
you surely would not want to wait.
The first servant. Now we go down to the gate at the church to
light the way with red bridal lights when the procession starts
from the house.
The second servant. Come along with us, Alfhild! You shall also
have a torch to carry!
Several. Yes, yes, you must come! It is Lord Olaf’s day of
Alfhild. [Takes one of the torches.] Yes, yes, I will! As the
most humble in the row I shall stand down there, and then, when
he sees me, when I ask of him, when I remind him of everything he
has promised and sworn — O, tell me, tell me, do you not think
that he will be kind to me again? Do you think so? O, tell me
you do! Say that you think so!
The servants. Aha — for certain he will; now come!
[They go out to the right to the rear of the house.]
Alfhild. [Bursts into tears.]
They mock at me, laugh at me — one and all!
So harsh is not even the mountain wall;
The moss thereon is permitted to grow;
There’s no one so kind to me here! I— I must go!
[Thunder and lightning.]
Alfhild. Ah, heaven itself is angry and grim,
It pours out its wrath on my wretched head;
But flash there is none to annihilate him
Who craftily tricked me in all that he said!
[The tones of the organ are heard from within the church.]
Alfhild. O, listen! I hear God’s angel choir!
’Tis Olaf to the altar they call!
And I must stand here in my ragged attire
And suffer outside the church-hall!
[She swings the torch high in the air.]
Alfhild. No, no, that I will not, thou all-highest God!
O, tempt me no longer, forswear thee I may!
[She is silent and listens to the organ music.]
Alfhild. God’s angels are singing! From under the sod
The dead they were able to carol away!
O, my bosom is bursting with woe!
[She kneels and faces the church.]
Alfhild. Cease, cease your melodies tender and sweet!
O, cease your singing; be kind, I entreat!
Or Olaf to the altar will go!
[Whispering and in the greatest apprehension.]
Alfhild. Be still! O, be still! For a little while yet!
He is lulled in a sleep that will make him forget!
O, waken him not, else straight he will hie
To the church — and then, alas, I must die!
[The organ grows louder through the storm. ALFHILD springs up,
beside herself with despair.]
The angels of God have forsaken me quite!
They mock at my anguish and woe!
They conjure him forth; — he is now in their might!
Ah, if here in the dark, dark night I must go,
Your bridal chamber at least shall be light!
[She throws the torch in through the opening in the gable and
falls down on the ground. — INGEBORG and HEMMING come hurriedly
from behind the house.]
Hemming. Now it is time. The horse stands saddled behind the
Ingeborg. And all the servants are down at the church, are they
Hemming. Aye, rest you assured; and in the banquet house I have
barred every shutter and door with heavy iron rings; no one can
Ingeborg. Away, then! Up to the valley which Alfhild has told
Hemming. Yes, up there! There no one will seek us!
[They rush out to the left. — ALFHILD continues to lie motionless
for some time. Suddenly cries and commotion are hear in the
bridal house; the flames break out through the roof.]
Alfhild. [Jumps up in despair.]
It burns! — Aha — I remember! ‘T was here
Too dark for my soul — it filled me with fear!
Olaf, before it was you who smiled,
Now it is Alfhild, so gay and so wild! —
In the bridal house there is anguish and gloom,
The bride is burning on the arm of the groom!
[The HOUSE SERVANTS rush in one by one without torches and stand
as if turned to stone. OLAF comes into view up in the opening,
which he seeks to widen with desperate efforts.]
Olaf. Alfhild! ’Tis you! So might I have known!
If only from out of this danger you save me,
‘T is silver and gold you shall hereafter own!
Alfhild. [With wild laughter.]
Too well I remember the promise you gave me!
Now ride to the church with minstrel and priest!
Now hold your wedding — forget all the rest!
Alfhild has honored you as she knew best —
The torch she has swung at your bridal feast!
[She rushes out at the back. The SERVANTS hasten to lend their
help; a part of the roof falls in; OLAF is seen high amidst the
flames as the curtain falls.]
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:10