Fridthjof's Saga, by Esaias Tegnér


Fridthjof and Ingeborg.

In Hilding’s garden, green and fair,

Protected by his fostering care,

Two rare and stately plants were growing,

Unequaled grace and beauty showing.

The one a sturdy oak tree grew,

With lance-like stem so straight and true,

Its crown in northern tempests shaking

Like helmet plume in battle quaking.

The other like a rose sprang forth

When tardy winter leaves the north,

And spring, which in the buds lies dreaming,

Still waits with gems to set them gleaming.

Around the earth the storm-king raves,

The wrestling oak its anger braves;

The sun dissolves frost’s mantle hoary,

The buds reveal their hidden glory.

So they grew up in joy and glee,

And Fridthjof was the young oak tree;

Unfolding in the vale serenely,

The rose was Ingeborg the queenly.

Saw you those two by light of day

You seem in Freyja’s house to stay,

Where bride-pairs, golden-haired, were swinging,

Their way on rosy pinions winging.

But seeing them by moonlight pale

Round dancing in the leafy vale,

You’d think: The elf-king now advances,

And leads his queen in fairy dances.

How joyful ’twas, how lovely too,

When first he learned his future through;

No kings had e’er such honor brought them

As when to Ingeborg he taught them.

How joyously his boat would glide

With those two o’er the dark blue tide:

While he the driving sail was veering,

Her small white hands gave hearty cheering.

No bird’s nest found so high a spot,

That he for her could find it not;

The eagle’s nest from clouds he sundered,

And eggs and young he deftly plundered.

However swift, there ran no brook,

But o’er it Ingeborg he took;

How sweet when roaring torrents frighten,

To feel her soft arms round him tighten.

The first; spring flowers by sunshine fed,

The earliest berries turning red,

The first of autumn’s golden treasure,

He proffered her with eager pleasure.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

But quickly sped are childhood’s days, —

There stands a youth whose ardent gaze

With pleading and with hope is laden,

And there, with budding charms, a maiden.

Young Fridthjof followed oft the chase,

Which led to many a fearful place;

With neither spear nor lance defended,

The wild bear’s life he quickly ended.

When, struggling, met they breast to breast,

The hunter won, though hardly pressed,

And brought the bearskin home; such prizes,

Think you, a maiden e’er despises?

For woman values courage rare;

The brave alone deserves the fair,

Each one the other’s grace completing,

As brow and helmet fitly meeting.

And when in winter evenings long,

By firelight reading, in a song,

Of fair abodes in radiant heaven

To every god and goddess given,

He thought: “Of gold is Ing’borg’s hair,

A net for rose and lily fair:

Like Freyja’s bounteous golden tresses,

A wheat-field which the breeze caresses.

Fair Idun’s beauteous bosom beats

Beneath the green silk’s safe retreats, —

I know a silk whose sheen encloses

Light; fairies two, with buds of roses.

And Frigg’s mild eyes are blue and clear

As heaven, when no clouds appear, —

But I know eyes beside whose sparkles

A light, blue spring day quickly darkles.

And Gerd’s fair cheeks, why praise them so?

The northern-lights, on new fall’n snow, —

I know of cheeks whose rosy warnings

Portray at once two ruddy mornings.

I know a heart affection-crowned

Like Nanna’s, though not so renowned

And Nanna’s love, in song and story,

Is justly reckoned Balder’s glory.

For oh, what joy when death appears,

To have a faithful maiden’s tears!

To prove a love so strong and tender,

With Hel’s grim shades I’d gladly wander.”

Meanwhile the princess gayly wove

In cloth, blue wave and greenest grove;

And as she sang a hero’s story,

She also wove a hero’s glory.

For soon there grew in snow-white wool

Bright shields from off the golden spool,

Here, red prevail the battle lances,

There, silver-stiffened armor glances.

Anon her fingers deftly trace

A hero, — see, ’tis Fridthjof’s face;

And though at first almost affrighted,

She blushes, smiles and is delighted.

The birch tree’s stem where Fridthjof went

Showed I and F in beauty blent;

As grew those runes in one, delighted,

So too those hearts in one united.

When Day invests the upper air,

The world-king with the golden hair,

When men to action urge each other,

They think alone of one another.

When Night pervades the upper air,

The world-queen with the raven hair,

When stars in silence greet each other,

They dream alone of one another.

“Thou Earth, who in the spring-time fair,

Bedeck’st with flowers thine emerald hair,

Give me the best; in wreaths I’ll wind them,

And round my Fridthjof’s brow will bind them.”

“Thou sea, who mak’st thy dark caves bright

With myriad pearls’ refulgent light,

Give me the best; I’ll weave the clearest

A necklace for my Ing’borg dearest.”

“Thou ornament of Odin’s throne,

Eye of the world, O golden sun,

Wert thou but mine, thy blazing splendor

I’d give a shield to my defender.”

“Thou guide in Odin’s house at night,

Thou pale moon with thy lovely light,

Were thou but mine, thy pearly lustre

‘Mid Ing’borg’s golden hair should cluster.”

But Hilding said: “My foster-son,

Your reason is by love outrun;

The norns are partial in bestowing

The blood that in her veins is flowing.

To Odin high, where bright stars shine,

Ascendeth her ancestral line;

No hope may son of Thorstein nourish,

For like with like alone can flourish.”

But Fridthjof smiled: “My race,” he said,

“Goes down unto the valiant dead;

The forest-king I slew, and merit

Thereby, the honor kings inherit.

“The free-born man will never yield,

He owns the world’s unconquered field;

For fate can bind what she has broken,

And hope is crowned with kingly token.

“All power is noble; Thor presides

In Thrudvang, where all strength abides;

There worth, and not descent, is leader, —

The sword is e’er a valiant pleader.

“I’d fight the world for my sweet bride,

Yea, though the thunder-god defied.

Be glad and brave, my lily, never

Shah mortal dare our lives to sever.”

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00