Fridthjof's Saga, by Esaias Tegnér


Fridthjof with Angantyr.

’Tis now to tell the story

How in his fir-wood hall,

Sat Angantyr, the hoary,

And drank with champions all.

He, joyous and light-hearted,

Looked out to where the sun

Behind the waves departed,

Just like a golden swan.

Outside the hall’s commotion

Old Halvard watched, — indeed

Not only watched the ocean,

But also watched his mead.

His custom, seldom broken,

Was, quick the horn to drain,

And ere a word was spoken,

To thrust it in again.

But now he threw it; striding

Into the hall he spake:

“I see the billows riding

A ship, whose timbers shake;

I see some sailors dying

Already on the strand,

And two strong giants, trying

To bring the rest to land.”

O’er waves no longer foaming,

The noble earl looked out:

“That is Ellide coming,

And Fridthjof too, no doubt;

His step, so firm and steady,

Bespeaks him Thorstein’s son.

Such brow, and smile so ready,

In Northland there is none.”

Then viking Atle sturdy

Sprang up at one swift bound;

Black-bearded berserk, bloody,

And fiercely looked around.

“Now, I will prove,” he thunders,

“What rumor means by this,

That all blades Fridthjof sunders,

And never sues for peace.”

And with the doughty viking,

His twelve best champions start,

And in the air sharp striking,

They brandish sword and dart.

They storm the strand, where by it

The weary dragon lay;

But Fridthjof, sitting nigh it,

Looks ready for the fray.

“Quite easy could I fell thee,”

The noisy Atle cries:

“No one comes here, I tell thee,

But either fights or flies.

If peace thou ask’st, believe me, —

I fight, but am no churl, —

In friendship I’ll receive thee,

And lead thee to the earl.”

“Although I’m scarcely rested,”

Is Fridthjof’s sharp reply,

“Our good swords must be tested,

Before for peace I cry.”

Then swift the sun-brown fighter

His flashing sword-blade swung,

Bright glowed the runes and brighter

On Angervadil’s tongue.

Blows fell without cessation,

Now deadly blows like rain,

And now in quick rotation

Each shield is cleft in twain.

Unhurt, with wrath unspoken

They stand within the ring, —

Now Atle’s sword is broken

And Fridthjof’s sword is king.

Said he: “A swordless foeman

I’ve no desire to slay;

But if you will, as yeomen,

We’ll try another way.”

As waves ‘gainst waves are pushing,

And breaking crest on crest,

So on each other rushing,

They wrestled breast to breast.

They fought like two bears trying

Their strength on crust of snow,

Or, as o’er mad waves flying

The eagle meets his foe.

The firm earth trembled round them,

Though based on solid rock,

And oaks, though strong roots bound them,

Could scarce withstand the shock.

Their brows with sweat were beaded,

Their breasts heaved with a sound,

The brush and stones unheeded,

They scattered all around.

The twelve in expectation

Stood quaking on the sand;

Renowned through every nation

That struggle on the strand.

But Fridthjof was the stronger,

He felled his foe at last,

And said with fiery anger,

His knee on Atle’s breast:

“Had I my good sword ready,

Thou berserk blackbeard, now

Thy miserable body

I’d straightway plunge it through.”

“Go bring it! Who’ll prevent thee?”

Is generous Atle’s cry,

“And if it will content thee,

As now I’ll quiet lie.

Why should it make me sorrow?

For all must Valhal see;

I go today — tomorrow

Perhaps thy turn will be.”

Then Fridthjof quick returning,

Desired to end the fray;

Raised Angervadil burning, —

But Atle quiet lay.

The falling blade ne’er harmed him,

For Fridthjof struck the sand;

Such courage had disarmed him,

He took brave Atle’s hand.

With gleeful admonition

Old Halvard swung his staff:

“For your battle-meal potation

There’s nothing here to quaff;

Upon the board hot-smoking

The silver dishes glow;

A cold meal is provoking,

And thirst annoys me so.’

Appeased, with friendly feeling,

The portals they pass through,

And here from floor to ceiling,

To Fridthjof all was new.

Rough planks well matched together

Lined not the spacious hall,

But ‘broidered golden leather

Was stretched along the wall.

The center was not littered

By mortared hearthstone wide;

A marble fireplace glittered,

Built up against the side.

No smoke ‘mid rafters flitted,

No roof with soot spread o’er;

Glass panes the windows fitted,

A lock secured the door.

No woollen torches crackling,

Illumed the champions’ feast,

But waxen candles, sparkling,

In silver sconces placed.

A roasted stag, well larded,

The table’s center graced;

Gold bands his raised hoof guarded,

With flowers his horns were dressed.

Beside each champion sitting,

A youthful maiden stood, —

An evening star, bright flitting,

Behind a stormy cloud

The blue eyes beamed, in showers

The gold-brown tresses flowed,

Complete as sculptured flowers

The little rose-lips glowed.

On silver stool, high mounted,

Sat Angantyr, the old;

His helm shot rays uncounted,

His corselet was of gold.

His mantle, rich and splendid,

With golden stars was strewn, —

And where the purple ended,

The spotless ermine shone,

Three steps the earl descended

To Fridthjof genially

He said, with hand extended:

“Come higher, sit by me.

Of horns I’ve emptied many

With Thorstein in his day;

His son, more famed than any,

Shall not sit far away.”

He filled each goblet brimming

With wine from Sicily, —

Like sparks of fire ’twas gleaming,

And foaming like the sea.

“Welcome!” exclaimed the speaker,

“My friend’s most worthy son!

To Thorstein fill a beaker, —

And drink now, every one!”

Now woke the harpstring’s slumbers,

A skald from Morven’s hills,

In Gaul’s melodious numbers,

Sad hero-songs he trills.

But Thorstein’s praise was chanted

In old Norwayan tongue;

His noble deeds were vaunted,

His daring valor snug.

The earl asked much concerning

His friends of days gone by;

In words replete with learning

Young Fridthjof made reply.

A judgment given blindly,

Swift accusation brings,

He spoke like Saga, kindly,

Remembering holy things.

And when he there recounted

How Helge goblins sent,

Which first the blue waves mounted,

Then, conquered, downward, went,

The champions cheered him loudly,

And Angantyr the same, —

In high approwd, proudly,

They echoed Fridthjof’s name.

But when he spoke in anguish,

Of Ing’borg in her bloom,

How she was left to languish,

Her heart with grief o’ercome, —

Each maiden’s cheek was burning,

Each bosom sore distressed;

And to her lover turning,

His faithful hand she pressed.

His embassy to mention

He ventured by and by;

The earl gave pleased attention,

And then he made reply:

“I ne’er was tributary;

King Bele’s health, maybe,

To drink was customary,

But from his law we’re free.

“His sons, I do not know them;

If tribute they demand,

Custom the way will show them,

We’ll meet them on the strand,

And see who best is reckoned;

But Thorstein was my friend.”

His daughter then he beckoned,

Who sat quite near at hand.

Then rose the maiden tender,

From stool all golden bound,

Her waist is trim and slender,

Her bosom full and round,

Each dimpled cheek encloses

An Astrild, roguish sprite,

As when on opening roses,

The butterflies alight.

She hastened to her bower,

A green silk purse she brought,

With bird and tree and flower

And beast ’twas deftly wrought;

On seas were white-winged vessels,

Beneath the silver moon,

Of gold were all the tassels,

The clasp with rubies shone.

She placed the dainty treasure

Within her father’s band;

He filled it, brimming measure,

With coin from foreign land.

“This welcome gift is only

A tribute to a friend;

And now the winter lonely

Consent with us to spend.

True courage knows no danger,

But Heyd and Ham, I fear,

Revived await the ranger,

And winter storms are here.

All foes the deep is hiding,

Ellide may not shun,

And many whales are riding

The waves, though conquered one.”

With jesting and potation

The hours till day were spent,

Without inebriation

The wine-cup gladness lent.

A brimming skoal was given

To Angantyr at last;

So Fridthjof in this haven

The cheerful winter passed.

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