Fridthjof's Saga, by Esaias Tegnér


The Return.

Now spring is breathing in skies of blue,

And earth her carpet has woven anew,

And Fridthjof grateful his kind host leaving

Again the billowy plain is cleaving,

And gayly speeding through silver-spray,

His black swan ploweth her sunny way.

The western breezes that spring is bringing,

Like nightingales in the sails are singing,

And AEger’s daughters in veils of blue

About the rudder their sports pursue.

Ah, how delightful when safely clearing

A foreign land, to be homeward steering!

When memory pictures the smoke that curled

Above one’s hearthstone, his childhood’s world,

The fount where playing his swift feet hurried,

The honored graves where his dead are buried.

He thinks of her who perchance may be

On high cliffs standing to watch the sea.

Six days he sailed on his way returning,

The seventh a strip of blue discerning

Low down the horizon, he neared it fast,

Saw rock and islet and land at last.

That land is his; from the waves advancing,

He sees green forests in sunlight dancing.

He hears the roar of the foaming streams,

Can trace each cliff which with granite gleams,

Salutes the headland and sound, then glideth

Along by the groves where his Ing’borg bideth.

Thinks how last summer each evening fair,

With her beside him he wandered there.

“Where is she? Guesses she not her lover

Is near her, safely the blue waves over?

Perhaps, removed from her Balder’s care,

She strikes the harp in the palace, where

Her grief she’d lessen, her needle plying.”

Then sudden rises his falcon, flying

From temple turret, then downward flits

To Fridthjof’s shoulder, and there he sits,

As was his wont, of his love to assure him.

From Fridthjof’s shoulder can none allure him,

He scratches fast with his gold-tipped claws,

He gives no quiet, he makes no pause.

To Fridthjof’s ear now his beak he bendeth,

Perchance some loved one a message sendeth;

Is it Ingeborg? Wildly his pulses bound,

But none interprets the broken sound.

Ellide gayly the headland rounding,

Skips lightly on, like a roebuck bounding.

Familiar waters surround the prow

Where happy Fridthjof is standing now.

He rubs his eyes and his hand he places

Above his brow to discern the traces

Of home so dear; but he looks in vain, —

Of Framness ashes alone remain.

The naked chimney stands lone and dreary,

Like warriors’ bones of their grave-mounds weary;

The garden place is a blackened floor,

The ashes whirl round the wasted shore.

In bitter mood from his ship he hasteth,

Around the ruins his eyes he casteth,

His father’s dwelling, his childhood’s pride.

Then faithful Bran with the shaggy hide,

Comes running toward him, each moment faster, —

Of forest bears had he oft been master;

How high he springs in his gladsome glee,

How leaps with pleasure his friend to see.

The milk-white steed he so oft had ridden

Comes bounding up from the valley hidden,

With swan-like neck and the frame of a hind

And gold mane floating upon the wind.

He curves his neck and he stamps while standing,

His food from Fridthjof’s own hand demanding;

But Fridthjof, poorer by far than they,

Has nought to give them, — he turns away.

Unsheltered, sorrowful stands the rover;

He looks at the meadow and grove burnt over,-

Of Hilding’s coming quite unaware,

His foster-father with silver hair.

“At what I see I can scarcely wonder,

When eagles flit then their nests are plunder.

’Tis Helge’s deed lest the land be wroth,

So well he keeps his crowning oath!

To hate mankind and to gods be loyal,

While blackened homes mark his progress royal!

More grief it gives me and less of pain;

But where does my Ingeborg meanwhile remain?”

“The word I hear,” Hilding said in sadness,

“I fear will bring you but little gladness.

You scarce had sailed when king Ring came on,

Five shields I counted against our one.

In Disar-dale did we prove our valor, —

The river foamed with a crimson color.

King Halfdan’s jest and his laugh arose,

So too the sound of his manly blows.

My shield I held as a buckler o’er him,

Well pleased with fruits his bravery bore him.

Not long indeed did the battle last.

King Helge yielded, and flying fast,

Though asa-blood in his veins was welling,

In passing Framness he fired the dwelling.

Before the brothers the choice was placed,

To give their sister to Ring, disgraced.

(By her alone could his wrongs be righted),

Or give their throne for his offer slighted.

Then hither and thither the messengers hied,

But now has Ring carried home his bride.”

“O woman, woman!” said Fridthjof, scorning,

“Old Loke’s thought should have been a warning;

His thought a lie, was in woman’s form,

To man he sent it his heart to warm,

A blue-eyed lie that with tears alarms us,

Forever cheats and forever charms us;

A rose-checked lie with bust defined,

Of spring-ice virtue and faith like wind;

From out whose heart folly often glances,

On whose fresh lips basest falsehood dances.

And yet how dear to my heart was she!

And dear as ever she still must be.

My wife I’ve called her since in the wildwood.

We played together in happy childhood.

Of high achievement if e’er I thought,

Her love alone was the prize I sought;

As stems which grow from one root together,

If Thor strikes one then they both will wither;

If one its vesture of emerald shows,

The other mantles with green its boughs.

Our lives in joy and in grief thus blended,

I cannot think of the union ended.

But I’m alone. O, thou noble Var

Who wanderest over the earth afar,

To record on gold every vow that’s spoken,

Forego thy pastime, the vows are broken.

The tablet filled with but falsest lies,

The faithful gold ‘gainst the insult cries.

Of Balder’s Nanna I’ve oft been dreaming,

But truth in mortals is only seeming.

In faithfulness can no heart rejoice

Since falsehood borrows my Ingeborg’s voice, —

A voice like wind which o’er flower fields strayeth

Or harp-strings’ music when Brage playeth.

I’ll list no more when the harp is tried,

I will not think of my faithless bride;

Where storms are raging there will I follow,

Till blood thou drinkest, thou ocean billow.

Where swords sow seeds for pale death to reap,

On mount or vale I my vigil keep.

If king I meet and to combat dare him

I smile to think how my sword shall spare him.

But if in battle a youth I meet,

With heart enamored and visions sweet,

Deluded fool who on faith relieth,

I’ll hew him down e’er the vision flyeth,

Will kindly slay him ere yet he be

Deceived, disgraced and betrayed like me.”

“The blood that’s youthful no boundaries heedeth,”

Old Hilding said, “how much it needeth

The cooling touch of the snows of age.

You wrong the maid with your senseless rage.

My foster-daughter beware of blaming

For adverse fortune which, heaven ordaining,

The wrathful norns upon men below

Hurl down, for none can escape the blow.

Like silent Vidar, no outward token

The maiden gave that her heart was broken.

Her grief was mute as in southern grove

The voiceless woe of the widowed dove.

To me alone who her childhood guided

Was all the pain she endured confided.

As dives the sea-fowl with wounded breast

Lest daylight’s eye should upon it rest,

And there remaineth with life-blood flowing,

No sign of weakness or misery showing,

So she in darkness her suffering bore,

And only I saw her anguish sore.

She often said: ‘I am but an offering

For Bele’s kingdom; who talks of suffering!

The snow-drop fragrant, with leaf and vine

To deck the victim in wreaths they twine.

How sweet to die and escape from anguish!

But no, in pain must I live and languish;

For Balder’s wrath will no rest allow

My aching heart and my throbbing brow.

But tell to no one my secret sorrow,

I’d rather suffer than pity borrow;

King Bele’s daughter her fate may dare, —

But kindly greeting to Fridthjof bear.’

The wedding day with its footsteps fateful

Arrived at last. O, the day most hateful!

To the temple marched in procession sad,

The white-robed virgins and men steel-clad;

A bard dejected the train was guiding,

The pale bride followed, a black steed riding

As pale was she as the wraith which sits

On a storm-cloud black, when the lightning flits.

From off the saddle I quietly took her,

Nor at the temple door forsook her;

But led her up to the altar, where

Her vows she uttered in accents clear.

She wept and prayed, on good Balder calling,

While down her cheeks were the tear-drops falling.

When Helge saw on her arm your band,

He tore it off with an angry hand;

On Balder’s image now hangs the jewel.

My wrath burst forth at this act so cruel;

My sword was by me, I drew it forth, —

King Helge then was but little worth.

‘Let be,’ said Ing’borg, in accents broken,

‘My brother might surely have spared this token;

How much one suffers ere death sets free, —

The Allfather judgeth ‘twixt him and me.’”

“The Allfather judgeth,” said Fridthjof slowly,

“I too would give him my judgment lowly.

Is’t not now mid-summer, Balder’s feast?

And in the temple the crowned priest, —

The king, who sold the maiden tender?

Ah! yes, my judgment I fain would render.”

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