Fridthjof's Saga, by Esaias Tegnér


Balder’s Funeral Pile.

Midnight’s sun on the mountain lay,

Blood-red was its gleaming

It was not night nor was it day,

But just between them seeming.

Balder’s bale-fire, symbol bright,

On sacred hearth was burning, —

Soon is quenched its wasted light,

Hoder’s reign returning.

Priests around the temple wall

Burning brands were grasping;

Silver-bearded, old men all, —

Their hard hands flint knives clasping.

The crowned king stands the altar near;

Hark! the midnight soundeth, —

With clash of weapons, sharp and clear,

The sacred grove resoundeth.

“Bjorn, stand fast by yonder door,

No one must pass under,

Whosoe’er would cross the floor,

Cleave his skull asunder.”

Helge paled: he knew too well

Whose that voice so ringing.

Forth stood Fridthjof; his fierce words fell

Like autumn storm winds singing.

“Here’s the ordered tribute; it came

Safe through the tempest’s rattle;

Take it; then here by Balder’s flame,

For life or death we’ll battle.

“Shields behind us, our bosoms free.

Fair the fight be reckoned;

As king, the first blow belongs to thee,

Mind thou, mine’s the second.

“Caught at last is the wily fox,

Vain all thought of flying;

Think of her with the golden locks,

Of Framness wasted lying.”

Thus he spake, and the purse he’d brought,

Forth he quickly drew it,

Careless of the mischief wrought,

In Helge’s face he threw it.

Darkness swam before the eyes

Of asas’ kinsman sainted;

Blood gushed forth, he could not rise,

But near his altar fainted.

“With the gold you as tribute claim,

Are you overpowered?

None shall Angervadil blame

For felling such a coward.

“Silence, priests with altar-knives,

Moonshine princes, quiet!

Else my sword may drink your lives;

Thirsting ’tis to try it.

“Holy Balder, thy wrath forbear,

Nor ‘gainst me enrol it:

But the arm-ring which you wear,

Yonder craven stole it.

“Not for thee did Volund old

Work its fair dimensions;

The maiden wept, but the thief was bold;

Away, such false pretensions.”

Bravely drew he; together fast

Arm and ring seemed growing;

Angered Balder, when loosed at last,

Fell ‘mid the embers glowing.

Hark! each flame, as it leaps on high,

A golden tooth resembles;

Bjorn, all pale, stands the doorway nigh,

Fridthjof, anxious, trembles.

“Open, Bjorn, let the people go,

Bv watchmen unimpeded;

The temple burns; throw water, throw

The ocean full, if needed.”

Now a chain is knit to the strand,

Not a link is missing;

Flies the billow from hand to hand

Against the fire-brands hissing.

Fridthjof sits like the god of rain

High o’er beam and water,

Gives to all his orders plain,

Calm amid the slaughter.

Vain! the fire has the upper hand,

Smoke-clouds dense are growing,

Gold falls first on the red-hot sand,

Silver streams are flowing.

All is lost! to the half-burned hall

A fire-red cock is clinging,

He sits and crows on the roof-peak tall,

His loosened pinions swinging.

The wind-blown flame mounts the vaulted sky,

Everything it levels,

Balder’s grove is summer dry,

The hungry fire-king revels.

Fiercely leaping from height to height

Aiming yet still higher;

O, what wild and terrific light!

Strong is Balder’s pyre!

Hark, it crackles! the roots now burn,

The tops are fiery showers;

Muspel’s ruddy children spurn

Man’s mere human powers.

A fire-sea billows in Balder’s grove,

Strandless breaks and hisses,

The sun is up, but bay and cove

Mirror flaming abysses.

Soon in smoldering ashes lay

Grove and temple’s adorning;

Sadly then Fridthjof turned away, —

Wept in the light of morning.

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